Football Doesn’t Let You Leave

Nate Jackson, writing for Deadspin, tells his own tale of professional football—“the cycle of injury, pain and rehab.”

While Andrew Luck’s decision to retire has baffled many fans (and I include journalists here, because journalists are the biggest fans), every NFL player understands why he’s doing it. When you make it to the NFL, people tell you that you’re living the dream. They tell you how lucky you are. They tell you it’s a good thing you don’t have to get a real job like they had to, because their lives suck and yours is awesome. When people constantly tell you how great you have it, it’s hard to do anything but nod and agree, even when you feel something else entirely.

Fans only see NFL players on Sundays, and only the guys who are healthy enough to play. But there are 349 other days of the year, and there only 22 guys on the field at a time. The rest of the days and the rest of the men are caught up in what Andrew Luck referred to as, the cycle of injury, pain and rehab.” If you play football past high school, you are familiar with it. Three of my six seasons in the NFL ended on injured reserve. Broken tibia, ruptured groin, dislocated/separated shoulders, torn hamstrings, cracked ribs, fingers, concussions, bulging discs, torn knee ligaments, etc. The glory was fleeting; the injuries were constant. And everyone I spoke to reminded me that I was living the dream.

Football is important to my family. My brother is a coach. My nephew plays. The college game affects my family directly. However, a story like this is a sobering reminder of the pain and anguish both mentally and physically players go through.

The blindness in my right eye, a direct result of playing backyard football, is also a daily reminder.

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