We would all retire early if it meant leaving our profession at the top of our game and several million dollars in the bank. Even if our passion was our career, early retirement has a special ring to it. In the past couple of years football fans were shocked to see the retirement of Patrick Willis and other players at the pinnacle of their careers including future hall of fame Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. The average age of early retirees has been 30 years. A prime age for a player to have at least five to six more productive seasons. Of course, there are anomalies such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Charles Woodson who put on all pro performances in their upper 30’s with Brady still being active in the league. But outside of these athletes gifted with longevity, more and more players are deciding to take advantage of the opportunity that comes with walking away from the game early. Currently the NFL allows a player to retire after 3 years of holding an active roster spot. And since most players come into the league at 23 years of age, the majority players with a decent contract at the end of their 20’s are absolutely capable of having an awesome retirement.
Money and financial stability should be well taken care of by the time NFL athletes reach the age of 30. With all the resources provided through business mentoring and financial advisors, players should be able to transition to the life of a common man pretty fast. Have there been horror stories of players going broke after leaving the game? Yes, indeed, but the components of an athlete struggling after a professional career are pretty diverse many come down to choices made or made by default. That said, the growing trend is for early retirees to have a finite plan that is implemented the very day they hang up their cleats. And with sound financial advice and smart spending being an old but fresh idea with this new generation of stars, there are plenty of players coming into the league with a ready made exit plan.
We can take Patrick Willis and Calvin Johnson as prime examples of players who were successful during their football career and had a seamless transition into life after football. Patrick Willis was one of the most menacing hitters to ever put on a San Francisco 49’ers uniform. His early retirement sent a ripple of stunned looks on 49er fans’ faces as well as the entire fanbase of the NFL. Willis was easily set to have more all pro years and was as finely tuned of a player that an all pro linebacker could be. However, he chose to head into the exclusive land of Silicon Valley where he has put his footprint in the business of startups. Calvin Johnson is another example of an early retiree that stunned football fans around the league. The 6’5, 238 pound Johnson nicknamed “Megatron” was a bigger version of hall of famer Randy Moss. His consistent scoring in the red zone along with weekly punishment of smaller defensive backs made him the ultimate offensive weapon. His retirement was followed by several business ventures including restaurants and youth organizations. While these are only two cases of early retirees, they are great examples of how an athlete can properly plan his exit from the game of professional football. Both players gave a great experience to the fans and are young enough to enjoy their families and a life of financial stability.
Now comes the NFL fan who for the most part has the patience of a lottery winner that’s given an IOU. NFL fans want wins for their favorite teams, big numbers from their favorite players, and longevity in those respective favorite players’ careers. Two out of three ain’t that bad. At the least the fans will get an extra dose of the honeymoon phase with players exiting the game early at the pinnacle of their careers. At the most you’ll have the NFL young star player barrel reloading every five to six years. Not a bad trade off at all.
If this trend continues, the quality of the NFL will gradually get better. You’ll have players competing in their prime physical forms. The fans will have a lot less frustration with aging players who have had their good sense knocked out of them and owners will be able to avoid the inevitable hard breakup with long term veterans. In a nutshell the NFL will become a young man’s league sticking close to the slogan of “milk the cow while the utters are full.” Or something like that. Love it or hate it but in the end….it is what it is.