Former Illinois Fighting Illini star Rashard Mendenhall made the shocking decision to retire from the NFL at the age of 26. Mendenhall was the primary reason Illinois made it’s last BCS appearance, the 2008 Rose Bowl. While the Illini lost that game to USC in a blow-out, 49-17, Mendenhall ran for 155 yards and a touchdown, a 79-yard run that was the only real highlight for the team.
Mendenhall was drafted no.23 in that same year’s draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his rookie season, the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Following that season, Mendenhall took Willie Parker‘s role as starting running back for the team. Following the 2012 season, Mendenhall signed with the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year contract.
Mendenhall was not expected to retire, but felt it was the best choice for him. According to him, though, it was not due to not loving the game. “Over my career, because of my interests in dance, art and literature, my very calm demeanor, and my apparent lack of interest in sporting events on my Twitter page, people in the sporting world have sometimes questioned whether or not I love the game of football. I do. I always have. I am an athlete and a competitor,” he said in a post by him on the Huffington Post.
It’s a strange decision, but is it right? He wants to move on from the game, and has stated that he has made enough money to be happy. He is now able to travel the world and follow the world of art. Maybe eventually, Mendenhall could become a painter.
While he was a good NFL player and an elite one at Illinois, it’s good to see a player who isn’t afraid to move on when he knows it’s right. If a player doesn’t feel they want to play anymore, they should retire, and not feel obligated to continue playing past the point of happiness.
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