When you have the opportunity to do something that you love for a living, and that something affords you the opportunity to retire early, walking away from that something can be a very difficult decision to make. When that something requires a high degree of physical training, sometimes the decision can be made for you. Other times it’s just one of many factors.
It’s a decision that former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster had to make for himself last year. And when he watched his former team lose to the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs, and he saw his longtime running mate Maurkice Pouncey sitting contemplatively on the bench long after the game ended—he knew exactly what was going on through his head.
Foster, who broke the news of Pouncey’s retirement on Friday, popped onto the radio with Poni and Mueller to discuss the situation, as well as the state of the team, and he talked about how it unfolded, beginning with that moment on the bench, and his reaching out to Pouncey.
“I initially sent him a message, like, ‘man, I feel for you, I’m sorry about that, I’m sorry for all of us not being able to bring a championship to the city’”, he told his hosts. “I know Maurkice pretty well. We were together a lot, in football and outside of football, too, so I knew what he was thinking. I saw what he was feeling, in the sense of, ‘man, he knows pretty much’, but he’s not sure how to do it, as far as being retired, as far as going about it”.
“When I talked to him initially, his initial answer to me was like, ‘I just don’t know, I’m like 50/50, I just don’t know what to do’”, he went on. “And I had to just tell him about my feelings when I had to retire. I was like, ‘man, there’s only so much that you can take, and I know that you want to die out on the field, but you’ve got to be careful about how you go about the next few years’”.
Football players are, like anybody else in any other profession, about so much more than their job, however. They also have lives, and families, and while they are well-compensated for it, their job takes them away from their loved ones more than most jobs do.
“He started talking about his daughters and the time that he felt like he was stripping away from that. His daughter, Jada, is becoming a young lady now, and you could see a bunch of that on him”, Foster said of Pouncey. “I just had to be like, ‘man, be you, make a decision for yourself. You’ve been selfless with yourself to everybody else, and now’s the time for you to make a decision for yourself’. And I didn’t know if he was gonna come back, and I really don’t think he knew at that time what he was gonna do”.
Perhaps he didn’t know. Perhaps he didn’t know how to break it to people, or even to himself. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, he can unburden himself and enjoy his future, so I’ll choose to celebrate that.