The 2014 NFL free agency signing period is well underway. We already have a few surprises. Rashard Mendenhall, a two-time Super Bowl champion, announced his retirement at 26 years old. Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end, Jared Allen, had stated he would retire if he did not get his fair market value this offseason (which he seems to have gotten, striking a four-year deal with the Chicago Bears). Allen is only 32 years old and is still a highly productive pass rusher.
These developments inspired us to look at the greatest players to retire too soon. Unfortunately, some of the greats will never be remembered because their professional careers were cut short due to injury. Some simply decided it was just time to hang up the cleats. Whatever the reason for their decision, some players were too good just to forget about because of the short length of their NFL careers.
The nature of professional football is tiring. Sometimes it is better to retire early while one still has their health. It must also be exhausting to constantly be in the public eye. No one can decide when is the right time to call it quits except for the players themselves. No matter what, these particular players gave us some great memories and will never be forgotten. In the words of Neil Young, sometimes “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”.
10 Jake Plummer - Retired at 34 in 2007
9 LeCharles Bentley - Retired at 29 in 2009
8 Ickey Woods - Retired at 26 in 1991
7 Bo Jackson - Retired at 28 in 1990
6 Tony Boselli - Retired at 29 in 2002
5 Christian Okoye - Retired at 31 in 1992
4 Troy Aikman - Retired at 34 in 2000
3 Gale Sayers - Retired at 28 in 1971
2 Barry Sanders - Retired at 30 in 1998
1 Jim Brown - Retired at 29 in 1965
Jim Brown is arguably the greatest professional football player of all time. He retired at 29 years old after playing running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. During his time with the Browns he made nine Pro Bowls and was the NFL rushing champion eight times. The NFL named him a member of their All-Decade Team for the 1960s. Brown retired with 12,312 rushing yards and 126 touchdowns, both NFL records at the time. In 1971, Jim Brown became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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