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What is the average age of retirement for an NFL player?

The NFL is one of the toughest, most physically demanding sports there is, which is why it's the league with the earliest retirement age amoung its players.

The NFL is one of the toughest, most physically demanding sports there is, which is why it's the league with the earliest retirement age amoung its players.
Mike EhrmannAFP

Every young athlete dreams of making it to the majors, winning titles, reaping the fortune and fame that accompanies sports stardom. None of those young athletes consider retirement when fantasizing about a future as a professional athlete. The truth is, as hard as it is to make it to the big show, staying in the big show can be even harder.

NFL careers the shortest on average

Of the four major sports leagues in the United States, the league with the shortest half-life when it comes to career longevity is without question the NFL.

Football is a physical game. Players bodies take a beating from the time they first put on the shoulder pads in Pee-Wee until their last down in the NFL, for the lucky few who make it to the elite level. It’s no wonder that the average age of retirement is 27.6 according to an RBC Wealth Management study.

Most of the time football players don’t have the luxury to retire. Many are forced into leaving the game at an early age because of injury, or simply a lack of options.

Wear and tear, and no fall back leagues cause short careers

The physical part of the game is the principal factor when you take the brevity of NFL careers. Another thing to consider is there is no NFL Jr. Football isn’t like baseball, basketball or hockey. Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no minor league, or G-League in football.

Most of the time it’s NFL or bust for football players coming out of college or on the fringe of making a roster. If that doesn’t come to fruition it’s time to look else where. There is the Canadian Football League, and NFL Europe does exist still I think… (it does, I just looked it up, although it’s called the European League of Football). But most who don’t make the cut on an NFL roster go back to working civilian jobs.

Kurt Warner the comeback poster boy

That’s not to say that can’t make a triumphant comeback to the gridiron. Take NFL Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. The Green Bay Packers cut their fourth string quarterback in 1994, and Warner had to go back to Iowa where he worked as a grocery-store checker making $5.50 an hour.

Five years after stocking shelves in an Iowa supermarket Kurt Warner played the role of quarterback on a St. Louis Rams team that would become know as “The Greatest Show on Terf.” The Burlington native went on to win the Super Bowl that year and etch his name in the book of greatest comeback stories ever told.

Brady continues to dazzle at 44

Every so often we stumble upon the four leaf clovers, like golden boy Tom Brady who seems to be getting younger as time. The 44-year old is coming off of a Super Bowl MVP performance and shows no signs of relieving defensive coordinators the headache of preparing for his brilliance week in and week out.

While the Tampa Bay QB is a diamond in the rough, there are players who have lasted in the NFL until their mid-40s, but it must be said that most of the players on the list are kickers, and most played over 50 years ago.

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde played until he was 44, before retire in 2007. Vinny was a cult legend know for his tenacity and durability, but he’d be the first to tell you that he wasn’t playing like Tom Brady is right now, even in the prime of his career.

Obviously the position you play has a lot to do with your durability in the NFL. A reliable kicker can stick around for upwards of two decades. Running backs, linebackers and lineman take the biggest poundings and they are susceptible to the earliest retirements.