“My wings spread a lot further than the acceptable athletic stereotypes and conformity was never a strong point of mine. My focus has always been on becoming a better me, not a second-rate somebody else.”
On Sunday March 9th, Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall took to the Huffington Post to announce his retirement from the NFL. This retirement comes at an odd time as he is only 26 years old coming off another good season as a starting running back. Since being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2008, Mendenhall has accumulated over 5,000 total yards including his 2010 season with the Steelers where he averaged close to 80 yards a game, finished with 13 touchdowns, and helped lead the Steelers to the SuperBowl.
Mendenhall explained that he decided to write online rather than calling a press conference about his retirement because he wanted to make as minimal news as possible. He stated that he personally would’ve been happy with fading into the darkness as a sort of NFL mystery. He comes off in his retirement letter as a very educated and articulate person who creates well thought out decisions. In the letter, he explains that the lights of the NFL and commercialized football have created an entirely different League than when he dreamt of being in the NFL.
Mendenhall noted that he always has and always will love football but realized when he reached the NFL that football entails so much more than just that now. He believes that players are more into their stats, celebrations, and highlights now rather than picking up a blitz, blocking, or doing something else that wouldn’t show up on ESPN. As his brother, a high school coach, remarked, “These kids don’t want to work hard. All they wanna do is look cool, celebrate after plays, and get more followers on Instagram.”
The truth in this statement is apparent in any game you watch. It’s more about the sleeves they wear and advertising themselves on social media than actually playing the game at this point in many ways. It’s because of reasons like this that Mendenhall said he would no longer want to put his body at risk for a follow or like. He was not shy about commenting on the idea of fantasy football and speaking about how that is one of the main motivators for players now too rather than winning games and this leads to more individual fame and stardom.
Mendenhall has never been one to worry about what others thought about him having said some very controversial and media stirring comments through social media and in press conferences. The most controversial of which was when he expressed his feelings over the celebration of Osama Bin Laden’s death exclaiming “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…” In defense of this statement he explained that Bin Laden would be judged by God and that Americans were being hypocritical. He remarked “During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.” It’s safe to say Mendenhall wasn’t afraid to create and defend his own path.
As for what Mendenhall sees in his future? That’s left for him to decide but its sure that he is fed up with the limelight. He explained that he would love to travel the world and take to writing and with no real financial concerns, he should be able to do that with no problem. Much to Mendenhall’s pleasure, it’s likely that the next time you hear his name will be at his own desire rather than ESPN’s Fantasy Watch, NFL Gameday, or Sportscenter. Congratulations to Mendenhall on seeing his own potential and here’s to hoping you can live life the way you want to rather than the way others want you.
Written by Rahul Lal