Monday, 15 Apr 2024

The Brief Career of NFL Players: A Field Too Rough

average age of retirement for football players

Every young athlete dreams of making it to the big leagues, winning titles, and reaping the fortunes and fame that accompany sports stardom. None of these young athletes consider retirement when fantasizing about a future as a professional athlete. The truth is, as hard as it is to make it to the big show, staying in the game can be even harder.

The Shortest Career Longevity in the NFL

Of the four major sports leagues in the United States, none has a shorter half-life when it comes to career longevity than the NFL. Football is a physical game, and players’ bodies take a beating from the time they first put on shoulder pads in Pee-Wee until their last down in the NFL, for the lucky few who make it to the elite level. It’s no wonder that according to an RBC Wealth Management study, the average age of retirement for NFL players is 27.6.

Most of the time, football players don’t have the luxury to retire. Many are forced to leave the game at an early age due to injury or simply a lack of options. The physical demands of the game are the principal factor contributing to the brevity of NFL careers. Unlike baseball, basketball, or hockey, football does not have a minor league or a development league like the G-League. For football players coming out of college or on the fringe of making a roster, it’s often NFL or bust. If that doesn’t come to fruition, they have to look elsewhere. There is the Canadian Football League, and as I recently found out, the European League of Football exists. But for most who don’t make the cut on an NFL roster, they go back to working civilian jobs.

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That’s not to say a triumphant comeback to the gridiron is impossible. Take Kurt Warner, an NFL Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Famer. After being cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994, Warner had to go back to Iowa, where he worked as a grocery store checker making $5.50 an hour. Five years later, he played the role of quarterback on a St. Louis Rams team that would become known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” That year, Warner won the Super Bowl, etching his name in the book of greatest comeback stories ever told.

Age is Just a Number for Some

While most NFL players have relatively short careers, there are a few exceptions. Tom Brady, the 44-year-old Tampa Bay quarterback, seems to be defying the laws of aging. Coming off a Super Bowl MVP performance, he shows no signs of relieving defensive coordinators of the headache of preparing for his brilliance week in and week out. However, it must be said that most of the players who have lasted in the NFL until their mid-40s are kickers, and most played over 50 years ago. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde played until he was 44, retiring in 2007. Vinny was a cult legend known for his tenacity and durability, but even he would admit that he wasn’t playing like Tom Brady is right now, even in the prime of his career.

Obviously, the position you play has a lot to do with your durability in the NFL. A reliable kicker can stick around for upwards of two decades, while running backs, linebackers, and linemen take the biggest poundings and are susceptible to the earliest retirements.

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FAQs

Q: What is the average age of retirement for NFL players?
A: The average age of retirement for NFL players is 27.6, according to a study by RBC Wealth Management.

Q: Why do NFL players have such short careers?
A: The physical demands of the game, lack of alternative leagues, and the absence of development leagues like in other sports contribute to the short careers of NFL players.

Q: Are there any players who have had long NFL careers?
A: While most NFL players have short careers, there have been exceptions like Tom Brady, who continues to excel at the age of 44. However, these exceptions are rare, and most players who have lasted until their mid-40s are kickers.

Conclusion

The NFL is a league that demands a tremendous physical and mental toll on its players. With the average age of retirement at 27.6, young athletes must not only dream of making it to the big leagues but also consider their plans for life after football. While some players defy the odds and have long, successful careers, most face the reality of a short and intense tenure in the NFL.