World of Sport

‘Why I quit my £1.2m-a-year job aged 26′

World of Sport

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Rashard Mendenhall is just 26 and made $2 million (£1.2m) playing American football in the NFL last season but has now decided to walk away from his job even though he admitted it was a "lot of fun."

Mendenhall made his name as a running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played in two Super Bowls (winning one of them), before playing for the Arizona Cardinals last season.

However, he has shocked his friends and family by deciding to walk away from the sport, and there are some interesting reasons as to why.

Mendenhall went without the traditional, emotional press conference used by most athletes to announce his retirement, and instead wrote a thoughtful article in the Huffington Post, to explain why he was quitting, and walking away from millions.

It may be an NFL player talking but pretty much all the points he made could have been uttered by a retiring Premier League star and be equally relevant.

"I decided not to hold a press conference because I didn't want to have to say things that were cliché. I've done enough of that since I've been playing football. I actually didn't really plan on saying anything about my retirement at all. I just kind of wanted to disappear," he admitted.

"I feel like I've done it all. I've been to two Super Bowls; made a bunch of money; had a lot of success; travelled all over the country and overseas; met some really cool people; made lasting relationships; had the opportunity to give back to causes close to my heart; and have been able to share my experiences and wisdom with friends, family and people all over the world."

That's the good part of being a sports star, but Mendenhall then went on to say there were tough realities that made him want to walk away.

"Imagine having a job where you're always on duty, and can never fully relax or you just may drown," he asked in his letter.

"Having to fight through waves and currents of praise and criticism, but mostly hate. I can't even count how many times I've been called a 'dumb n****r'. There is a bold coarseness you receive from non-supporters that seems to only exist on the internet. However, even if you try to avoid these things completely - because I've tried - somehow they still reach you."

He also noted how the media and players are now obsessed with celebrity and stats, and how the virtues of good of teamwork and respecting officials are ignored.

Mendenhall said the pressure of having to be an 'entertainer' as opposed to just a professional footballer, never appealed to him.

"Over my career, because of my interests in dance, art and literature, my very calm demeanour, 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 explained.

"But I am not an entertainer. I never have been. Playing that role was never easy for me. The box deemed for professional athletes is a very small box. My wings spread a lot further than the acceptable athletic stereotypes and conformity was never a strong point of mine.

"I no longer wish to put my body at risk for the sake of entertainment. I think about the rest of my life and I want to live it with much quality."

Mendenhall said he would now "chase my desires and passions without restriction" and said that writing more was one of his plans during retirement.

One thing that is worth nothing about his case is that he would have become a free agent this off-season, and past injury concerns may have limited his ability to make the same amount of money he has in recent seasons.

Still, he was still very much seen as a viable NFL player for 2014, and the thoughtful reasoning behind his retirement makes him a fascinating sports case study.

You can read Mendenhall's entire letter here:

"Why I Retired At 26"

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