As you all have learned by now, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds announced sometime around midnight that he is choosing to step away from the game of football after five seasons in the NFL.
Given that he is healthy, just a little over a week past the age of 27, and hitting the open market for the first time in his professional career, the revelation came as a bit of a surprise, to say the least.
In a statement that he shared via Twitter, Worilds wrote the following:
I appreciate all of the interest from the organizations that have reached out to us the past few days. With that being said, after much thought & consideration I have chosen to step away from football as I have opted to pursue other interests. I am especially grateful of the opportunity to play before some of the greatest fans in football today. Despite any concern and speculation that may ensue, I appreciate those that are respectful of my decision.
In the 12 hours or so since Worilds announced his intentions to retire, a conversation has generated among both fans and media surrounding the question of why. While some have called his decision admirable, others have chosen to question his passion for the game.
Perhaps neither angle is fair, or at least not entirely accurate, as we don’t know exactly why he turned down the opportunity to make several million dollars a year. Perhaps it has nothing to do with his love of the game. After all, you don’t have to love the game to excel—see Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin.
The entertainment business is a curious one indeed. And that is what sporting events are, of course: entertainment. It is an industry that is built on people paying money to watch you perform your job. It’s a nice setup when you’re good at said job and there are a lot of people willing to pay.
But it also makes it difficult for those people to hold much of any true interest in your own wellbeing; after all, you are there for their entertainment. So when you cease entertaining them earlier than was expected, you expose yourself to some potential backlash.
Wouldn’t you retire at the age of 27, in good health, if you were afforded the opportunity to do so? And wouldn’t you want your fans to be happy for you to have the luxury of being able to do just that?
At the risk of lowering myself to cliché, it’s times like these that call for a reminder that, as much as football may mean to those of us who follow it, and as much as the Steelers in particular mean to those of us who write for and read this website on a daily basis, it’s ultimately just a game.
It’s not life. it’s a game, and it’s a game played by real people, all of whom deserve the opportunity to judge what’s best for themselves. Perhaps Worilds felt that he made enough money in his five years in the NFL to live comfortably without putting his health and wellbeing at further risk in a violent sport. Perhaps he felt it was more important to be able to be there for his children later in life than to play a children’s game for a living for a few more years.
I don’t particularly care whether his decision was admirable, or whether or not he has a true passion for the game. To be quite frank, I don’t know the answer to either of those queries, nor do those answers matter. I simply respect his decision and wish him happiness in whatever path he may choose going forward.