(Yahoo!) Antwaan Randle El had the type of football career that almost anyone would envy.
He was a star at Indiana, finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2001. A college quarterback, Randle El transitioned into a fine NFL career as a receiver, playing nine seasons with 4,467 yards and 15 touchdowns. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had the signature play of Super Bowl XL with a touchdown pass on a trick play to Hines Ward. He signed three NFL contracts worth about $41 million, and although he didn't get all of that money, he got enough to be financially secure for the rest of his life. He used that money to help found Virginia Academy, a high school in Ashburn, Va. He is the school's athletic director.
And if he had the choice, he'd have never played football.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted Randle El as saying “If I could go back, I wouldn’t” play football (via the Washington Post). Randle El, who was also a very good baseball and basketball player, said he would have played baseball. He was a 14th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1997.
"Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football," Randle El told the Post-Gazette. "But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”
That might be overstating things — Randle El will turn 37 this year, and 14th-round picks are far from locks to make the majors considering first-round picks often fall short in baseball. But it's not just regret that he missed out on a great baseball career.
Football took a toll on him. Randle El said he has trouble walking down steps and has memory lapses.
“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’" Randle El told the Post-Gazette. “I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I’m busy, I’m doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”
Randle El talked in the article about the dangers of concussions and spinal injuries and how he tells parents, "You can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid." Randle El said it wouldn't surprise him if football isn't around in 20 or 25 years.
Football is doing just fine, averaging more than 36 million television viewers for the four playoff games last weekend. But it's startling when a player whose football career resulted in fame, fortune and a Super Bowl ring wishes he had never played.
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