The sports world was in shock last night, as Andrew Luck announced that he will be stepping away from the game of football to travel the world with his wife, as he is mentally worn down and seemingly always injured. The former number one overall pick was expected to be the future of the league at 29 years young, with all the tools to be great. With this news, it got me to thinking. What other great’s walked away too early? Here is my list of the Top Five Athletes That Retired Early.
Photo Credit- (AJ Mast / Associated Press)
Bo Jackson – One of the greatest athletes of all time that dominated the game of Football and Baseball. The first ever player to be a Pro Bowler in the NFL and an All Star in the MLB, Jackson was known for his physical prowess whether it be darting around those bases or making every defender miss. Hip issues would cut his career short, but everyone knows the Auburn natives name in sports circles for a reason.
Sandy Koufax – One of the most dominant pitchers of all time, winning three Cy Young awards and an MVP with his L.A. Dodgers, and four World Series Titles. Koufax was forced to retire due to elbow issues at the age of 30, but the guy could throw the baseball like no-one we had seen at the time of the 1960’s.
5. Brandon Roy
Brandon Roy at a young age was expected to be the future of the Portland Trailblazers, winning Rookie of the Year honors and was considered one of the best shooters in the league. A three time All Star, Roy would have many knee issues that would keep him off the court. At the age of 26, Roy decided to hang his sneakers up as health concerns would be too much for him. To this day, many think that Roy would have been a HOF caliber player if he would have been able to stay healthy.
4. Rocky Marciano
If you love boxing, you know that Rocky Marciano is one of the greatest boxers of all time. An astonishing record of 49-0 in what many would consider the age of boxing that built the sport as a whole, Marciano dominated. In boxing circles today, many still believe that Marciano is the greatest boxer of all time, but what many don’t know is that he retired at the age of 32! He did it to spend more time with his family, but many still wonder how many more matches Rocky could have gone undefeated in.
3. Calvin Johnson
As a Green Bay fan, let me tell you that Calvin Johnson always gave the hopeless lions, just that. Hope. One of the most feared Wide Receivers of all time, you could not stop him, only hope to contain him. A six time Pro Bowler, and a four time All Pro, Johnson seemed to be on his way to the GOAT status. At the age of 30, Johnson decided that the Lions not wanting to get better and a preservation of his body we’re more important and hung up his cleats. At the age of 33 as we speak, Johnson would still likely be putting up 1000 yard receiving seasons and dominating the game.
2. Jim Brown
Playing decades ago, Brown is still talked about as one of the best players to ever lace cleats and play the game of football. Leading the league in rushing for eight straight years, Brown would not only set, but crush records set before him. A three time MVP (which as a running back is more impressive than anything else), Brown would decide to retire at the age of 30. If he would have stuck around for a longer career, there is a good chance he would still hold the rushing record.
1. Barry Sanders
The most elusive running back in NFL History (Quote me), Sanders was on his way to being the greatest running back of all time. Taking the Lions to the playoffs five times, win an MVP and be a Pro Bowler for ten straight years. Only one average Sanders year away from breaking Walter Payton’s all time rushing record, Sanders retired at the age of 31, with no injuries and four years left on his lucrative six year deal.
So that’s it! If you guys disagree, leave a comment and tell me who you think should be on this list.