Antwaan Randle El was an All-Pro punt returner who won a Super Bowl and threw one of the most memorable passes in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He now regrets ever playing football.
Randle El claims he has serious trouble with his memory and can barely walk down stairs. He’s just 36 years old.
The quotes from Randle El in an article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are heartbreaking. When asked whether he regrets playing football, he is definitive with his answer:
"“If I could go back, I wouldn’t (play football). 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.”"
What he describes seems like a living nightmare:
"“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that.’ I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that.”"
Randle El is also certain there’s nothing that will change the violence of the game or the injuries that keep piling up:
"“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.”"
After a storied career at Indiana University, the Steelers made the quarterback-turned wide receiver a second-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. He was one of the NFL’s most dynamic weapons over the next few seasons as he helped the Steelers to a win in Super Bowl XL. Randle El remains the only wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.
Randle El left the Steelers in 2006 and spent four seasons with the Washington Redskins before returning to the Steelers in 2010. He retired after that season.
Now he’s a school administrator at Virginia Academy in Ashburn, Va., a school he helped found. Not surprisingly, Virginia Academy recently dropped it’s football program.
Randle El lives with regret for the past and fear for the future:
"“…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.”"
Frankly, there are too many of these stories popping up. And on what would have been Junior Seau’s 47th birthday, it’s time to suggest real solutions. If we can’t, Randle El might be right that football could be gone in the next few decades.