Former NFL wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, whose trick-play touchdown pass famously helped the Pittsburgh Steelers to a victory in Super Bowl XL, said he regrets having ever played football.
Randle El, 36, told the Pittburgh Post-Gazette in story published Tuesday that he struggles to walk down the stairs and has contended with memory loss since announcing his retirement in 2012.
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” the former Indiana University quarterback said of the sport that brought him roughly $40m in career earnings. “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.”
An outspoken critic of the NFL and plaintiff in a 2013 lawsuit claiming the league “has done everything in its power to hide the issue and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions”, Randle El believes the sport is inherently dangerous and beyond fixing.
“The kids are getting bigger and faster, so the concussions, the severe spinal cord injuries, are only going to get worse,” Randle El 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.”
He added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20, 25 years.”
A star quarterback at Indiana University, Randle El was converted to wide receiver after being drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft and finished his nine-year career with 370 receptions for 4,467 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also made an impact on special teams, averaging 22.3 yards on 79 kickoff returns with one touchdown, and 8.2 yards on 311 punt returns with five touchdowns.
Randle El’s most famous moment came in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks. With the Steelers nursing a 14-10 lead with nine minutes remaining, his 43-yard touchdown strike to Hines Ward on a reverse option would prove the game’s decisive play.
Antwaan Randle El’s game-breaking touchdown pass lifted the Steelers to a Super Bowl XL victory
Still, he insists the glory was not worth the personal cost.
“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.”