Former NFL wide receiver Antwaan Randle El regrets ever playing football after dealing with constant memory loss and barely being able to get down the stairs in his home. Randle El offered further detail to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as part of a Pittsburgh Steelers project, as Randle El spent five seasons with the team over two separate stints.
“I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day,” Randle El, 36, said. “Going up is easier actually than coming down.”
“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’ ” Randle El said. “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.”
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” he said. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”
This is certainly heartbreaking to here, as Randle El is not even 40 years old and already dealing with the myriad number of physical problems that so many retired NFL players deal with regularly. Unfortunately, it isn’t entirely a surprise.
Keep in mind that on top of high school football and NFL, Randle El played his college ball at Indiana and was not a wide receiver, but a quarterback. In four seasons with the Hoosiers, he threw for 7,469 yards and 42 touchdowns while also accumulating 3,895 yards and 44 scores on the ground. Needless to say, in the hard-hitting Big Ten, he surely took his fair share of punishment as a dual-threat quarterback.
Randle El then went on to play nine NFL seasons with the Steelers and Washington Redskins and take even more punishment as he posted 370 receptions for 4,467 yards and 27 touchdowns while also adding 4,316 yards on special teams.
And Randle El also sees firsthand how much of an effect football has on the younger generations, as he is now the athletic director of the school he founded in the Washington DC suburb of Ashburn, Virginia, Virginia Academy. The school had a football program, but was discontinued after two years for expense reasons. Still, Randle El offered another take.
“The kids are getting bigger and faster, so the concussions, the severe spinal cord injuries, are only going to get worse,” he said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow because I love the game of football. But I tell parents, you can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid.
“There’s no correcting it. There’s no helmet that’s going to correct it. There’s no teaching that’s going to correct it. It just comes down to it’s a physically violent game. Football players are in a car wreck every week.”
“Right now,” he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20, 25 years.”
Either way, no matter how one feels about the sport, Randle El’s tale is a cautionary one. If he’s only 36 years old and can’t even walk down stairs without a struggle, then to say that football doesn’t cause long-term injuries is just plain wrong.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports