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Heath Miller, We’ll Miss You

heath-miller

A little late, but this is a post that I can’t not make.  After eleven seasons, tight end Heath Miller, the quintessential Steeler, has called it quits–here’s hoping he’s making it out with both his body and his brain intact, even though I’d have loved to see him stick around for another Lombardi trophy next February. A humble player in a world of egotists, Miller miller.pngnever complained about being employed as a blocking tight end, at which he excelled, while less talented players grabbed more attention as glorified wide receivers. For most of his career, he was far and away the most complete, most complete tight end in the league, a brutal blocker and sure-handed receiver. Just as importantly, he was a man whose life outside the stadiums rarely made the news, unless he was being feted as a superior citizen.

My only complaint is that it’s possible my wife liked him just a little bit more than I would have liked.  Good luck to him, though, despite that–he deserves his healthy retirement.

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Three Cheers For Rashard Mendenhall

I’ve been reading a lot of banter–and a lot of nastiness–about NFL running back Rashard Mendenhall who, at the age of 26, surprised just about anyone who gives a damn about football by announcing his retirement rather than seek a new free agent contract.  I don’t get it.  The hate, I mean.

rashard-mendenhall-gettyI respect the guy for opting out rather than signing another contract and half-assing it until he got cut, a strategy he could have used to reel in another substantial signing bonus–he certainly wouldn’t be the first NFL player to cash in and clock out, nor would he be the last.  It’s not easy to walk away from a million dollars, and he would have got more.  It’s more difficult still to cut the cord on the ego-boosting that comes along with being a famous athlete, but if what he writes in his impressive explanatory letter in the Huffington Post is true, that was never a big deal for Mendenhall.

BarryFosterThrowbackSteelersJersey
Barry Foster

This scenario reminds reminds me of another former Steeler: Barry Foster, a hard-hitting pro-bowl quality running back who quit at the pinnacle of his carreer to go bass fishing when he realized he just didn’t feel it anymore.  In a game of inches, where the difference between the great and the mediocre is a razor-thin line made mostly of confidence and commitment, if the will isn’t there, the player is going to fail, hurt his team and probably hurt himself physically in the process.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh SteelersI think of it this way–at 47, if I was offered a choice between the fame and glory of an NFL career, with all the attendant risks and responsibilities, or $10 million in the bank and a lifetime to do what I want, go where I want, and be myself away from the glare of the media spotlight, I’d take the later.  At 26, I don’t think I’d have made the same choice–Mendenhall made a mature choice–he owes nothing to anyone.  He played out his last contract; the slate is clear.  If I’m him, I’m already gone–a babe on my arm on a slow boat to Bora Bora.