"He wasn't going to play for the Steelers next year, anyway."
That was my first thought Wednesday morning when I heard the rather shocking news that Jason Worilds, the 27 year old linebacker who spent five years in Pittsburgh, was retiring from the NFL instead of cashing-in on free-agency and probably the biggest contract of his career.
But viewing it from a player's perspective, the part of me that grew up dreaming of playing in the National Football League (judging by my frame, size and speed, it was the epitome of a pipe-dream), I couldn't for the life of me figure out why Worilds would walk away from so much money and at least another half-decade of NFL glory.
However, not everyone thinks an NFL career is glorious, and that probably goes for many players who are in the throes of experiencing an NFL career. I guess it's easy to forget this is still a job to most of these guys, and while fans like me look at making a great sack or scoring the game-winning touchdown as something out of this world, to a lot of the men doing it, it's just another day at the office.
I'll bet if every NFL player was forced to drink some kind of truth serum, we'd probably be stunned to discover just how many of them are less than enchanted with all the glory and the accolades and are just doing it for the money.
Is that a bad thing, to look at an NFL career as just a way to earn a living and not as an avenue to a legacy where fans will remember you and cherish your playing days forever? Is it wrong to be passionate about something besides football? Again, for me, that's just a crazy thought. But to your average fan, being an NFL player is so abstract, it's impossible to imagine anyone who possesses the ability to make it a reality not enjoying every single second of it.
However, just because someone has the ability to do something doesn't mean that person necessarily is going to enjoy doing it.
In the hours that have followed Worilds' announcement and the revelation that his main reason for retiring is to serve a religious group, some have speculated he only walked away because he wasn't satisfied with the offers he was getting at the onset of free-agency.
Or, maybe, just maybe, Worilds was satisfied with the $9.754 million he received in 2014, after Pittsburgh slapped him with the transition tag last March. That's a pretty good chunk of change for a year of dealing with the rigors of professional football. You add in the money Worilds made after signing his rookie deal back in 2010, and maybe he feels he's set himself up for a pretty decent life. Just examining the amount of money Worilds made last year, a person would have to work 40 years and earn over $240,000 annually to match that figure.
What do people often say when a mega-superstar athlete is going for a huge contract? We always say, "How much money does a person need?" knowing full-well that just like 99 percent of the mega-superstars before him, he's going to go for every last dollar he can make. But when an athlete turns the tables and actually does feel he's made enough, it's hard to come to grips with it.
As much as it might pain us to admit, not everyone who wears the black and gold has a burning desire to be the best; not every linebacker wishes to have fans walking around in his throwback jersey 20 years after he retires.
And, believe it or not, not every Hall of Fame running back plays the game with the passion and the love befitting such a career. Curtis Martin, who grew up in Pittsburgh, played for Pitt and went on to become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history--finishing fourth all-time with 14,101 yards playing for both the Patriots and Jets--admitted in his Hall of Fame speech in 2012 the love for the sport was never truly in his heart.
With your average NFL player making more money today than the top stars only dreamed about decades ago, and with more awareness and education regarding the effects concussions have on former NFL stars later in life, you might see more players walk away from the game at an age we think is a bit premature.
We all might love the game of football, but that doesn't mean every single NFL player does.