Every year the NFL has impact players retire. In 2016 it was Peyton Manning, retiring on top of the world after a Super Bowl LI victory and Calvin Johnson Jr., an all-time great, retiring at an age that seemed far too young. Not to mention Marshawn Lycnh. This years class may not have the stature that Manning’s class had but it makes up for that with a huge personality.
Four Retiring Players The NFL Will Miss in 2017
Pat McAfee – Punter – Indianapolis Colts
McAfee is calling it quits at only 29 years old and after being selected to his second Pro Bowl in three years. McAfee was also the NFL leader in gross punting average yards in 2016. 29 seems young for a punter to retire and walk away from another six million dollars over the next two years, but McAfee already has his sights set on working for a satirical sports page called Barstool Sports. McAfee is known for doing stand up comedy in the offseason and was always a fun player for the media to deal with.
McAfee’s NFL dream almost ended before it gained momentum. On October 20, 2010 McAfee was arrested for public intoxication and suspended one game by the Colts, following their bye week. The arrest was McAfee’s wakeup call. McAfee would then be drug tested eight times over two years and had to see a councillor once a week. Without the distractions of the night life and partying McAfee thrived on the field. Over this span, McAfee worked harder than ever before and became the Pro Bowl punter that everyone loved.
Besides to Marquette King, McAfee might have been the NFL’s most recognizable punter. McAfee celebrated his way into Colts fans hearts far before 2016. Thats why the NFL will miss McAfee. In a league like the NFL where its own players call it the ‘No Fun League’ McAfee never lost his sense of humour. From joking with the media to elaborate punting dances Pat ‘Boomstick’ McAfee truly will be missed. Fans will also never forget his hit on Broncos returner Trindon Holliday.
Robert Mathis – Defensive End – Indianapolis Colts
The second impactful Colt to be retiring this year is Robert Mathis. Mathis was a force coming off the edge for 14 years and remained effective even throughout the later stages of his career. Mathis had his best defensive season in 2013 where he won AFC defensive player of the year. That year, Mathis lead the league in sacks (19.5), in forced fumbles (8) and added 14 other tackles for loss. He will finish his career at 17th all time in sacks with 123 and finish atop the leader board in forced fumbles with 52.
Mathis was named to the Pro Bowl six times in his NFL career, all consecutively from 2008 to 2013. He would be named second team All-Pro in 2009 and first team All-Pro in 2013 (AFC DPOY). Winning his only Super Bowl in 2007, Mathis would appear twice in the championship game, winning once and falling in a heartbreaker to New Orleans in 2010. He started every game during the Colts Super Bowl runs, all three games in 2010 and all four in 2007.
Mathis finished his career the way he lived it. In his final game of 2016 after sacking and striping Blake Bortles, Mathis recovered his own fumble and celebrated in classic fashion. Mathis played with a fire and a motor that was paralleled by very few, scaring opposing quarterbacks for 14 years. It will be hard for Mathis to get to the Hall of Fame but it would be a fitting way to cap a tremendous career.
Vince Wilfork – Nose Tackle – New England Patriots/Houston Texans
Wilfork has been part of the NFL for 13 years now and It is finally time for the big man to hang them up. Over his time, Wilfork became one of the leagues most feared men from the defensive line. He would go on to start every game he dressed for after his rookie season. Wilfork made the Pro Bowl five times over his tenure in New England and was named a first team All-Pro in 2012. During his career Wilfork was only on a defence that was outside the top 10 in scoring defence twice. He finished his career with two Super Bowls, both with the Patriots. His first in 2005 and his second in 2015.
Wilfork spent his last two seasons with Houston but before, was a main stay of the New Englend Patriots defence. On a team that was constantly riddled with success, Wilfork stood out as a play maker and a leader. Wilfork lead by example and brought a goofy charm to football. What Wilfork lacked in speed he made up for by using his size and awareness to make key plays at key times, including three career interceptions. He also was his 6’2″, 325lbs (at one point heavier). Wilfork might not have been a speedster but for a DT had great agility and athleticism.
Some off the field highlights for Wilfork included, showing up to Texans practice, shirtless in a pair of overalls, kicking field goals with Carli Lloyd and his love of shooting hoops. He also showed up in more than a few commercials over his career. The big body and big personality will be missed by all NFL fans and players.
Steve Smith Sr. – Wide Receiver – Carolina Panthers/Baltimore Ravens
This year the NFL is losing maybe it’s best trash talker ever. A third round pick in 2001 Steve Smith Sr. always played with a chip on his shoulder. At 5’9″, 195 lbs, Smith Sr. talked liked he was the biggest player on the field. If he had a problem with you he would let you know. Even if he did not, he would be yapping in your ear all game just to throw you off a bit. However, Smith was respectful. He tried not to cross any lines but would not tolerate someone else crossing them (see Janoris Jenkins).
What is most impressive about Smith Sr. are his numbers. After retiring, Smith Sr. will become the only receiver under six feet to catch 1000 passes and finished his career 12th all-time in receptions at 1031. Not only was he sure handed but he was quick. His speed allowed him to reach seventh all-time in receiving yards with 14 731. Smith was elected to five Pro Bowls, and a two time All-Pro.
Starting out as a kick return specialist, Smith Sr. made his presence known from the second he stepped on to the field. On the first play of Smith Sr’s career, he returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. It would be the first of many. Smith finished his career as Carolina’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 67 and would add another 14 over three years in Baltimore. Smith said goodbye the only way he knew how. In one final statement to Roger Goddell, Smith wrote “as of today I, Steve Smith Sr., will no longer be antagonizing defensive backs. I am retiring from the National Football League”.