This week, legendary Linebacker James Harrison hung up his cleats for the last time. And while Quarterbacks everywhere blew a collective sigh of relief, we can’t help but wonder what’s next for ol’ Deebo. Harrison hinted in an Instagram post that he was done with football for good, citing “missing too much” family life as his main motivator. This may well be true, but more often than not players of Harrison’s vaunted calibre can never really truly leave the game.
There are three paths that recent NFL retiree’s typically take. These are: Commentating, Coaching or Creating.
Recently retired NFL players often make the best commentators and analysts on the sport. They are fresh off the field and bring with them a wealth of football knowledge. Troy Aikman, Ray Lewis and most recently Tony Romo have all successfully transitioned to the broadcast booth. In fact, broadcast journalism seems to be the most popular post playing path for new retirees of the NFL. Most television networks, particularly the NFL’s own will have a number of high profile former players on their roster. Even the likes of NFL bust Tim Tebow managed to land himself a TV gig and is now a side-line analyst on the SEC College Football Network!
For erstwhile players who are a little more camera shy, an opportunity to join the coaching ranks is often presented. New coaches will usually start at lower positional levels and progress up the chain. Players who were plain average in their careers such as Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh developed into championship winning head coaches. Harbaugh in particular has had success at all three of his head coaching stops, and is considered to be one of the most passionate and motivated head coaches in college football. Players looking to take the step into coaching often start out with their old team. For example former Steelers Linebackers Joey Porter and Jerry Oslavsky now serve as positional Linebacker coaches with the team. New retirees bring playing experience and knowledge as well as being able to relate to players on the team, making them the perfect candidates for coaching positions.
There are more budding entrepreneurs in the NFL than you might think! Competition for a roster spot is fierce, and you’ll never know when you’ll need to rely on yourself to generate an income. A prime example is Chris Gronkowski (yes, that Gronkowski family). Chris bounced around four NFL teams before finally leaving the league. His NFL pension wasn’t cutting it so he took his fortune in his own hands and founded a sports nutrition company. Many players will also invest in businesses while still playing. These investments give them a cushion against eventual retirement. For instance, Peyton Manning previously owned a large stake in the Papa John pizza chain. In fact, when he was traded to the Broncos, he bought every Papa Johns store in the Denver area! Smart (and tasty) move!
Whatever path is taken by ex players, there most definitely is life after football!