It is really hard on running backs, who I believe average under five NFL seasons as a group. They take (and deliver) a lot of punishment, and generally wear down pretty quickly relative to other football positions.
Rashard's toughest test will come about a year from now, after he sees the opportunity costs build up while recognizing there are a lot of far-less-talented players still making bank in the league.
One of his peers is definitely Robert Smith, the Minnesota Vikings' former all-time rushing leader (before Adrian Peterson in 2012) who still holds the NFL record for highest average yardage on Touchdown runs. Smith left the game before his 28th birthday, right after leading the NFC in rushing the season before.
Smith set out to pursue a medical career. While he is occasionally on ESPN, and on NFL Network as an analyst, he has set up a foundation that supports children's hospitals and cancer research.
This lady at Forbes
(do they have any good writers anymore?) swung-and-missed by suggesting Mendenhall's "a bad role model for Millennials". For Millennial pro football running backs
, I'd say he's a pretty good one.http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2014/03/12/is-nfl-retiree-rashard-mendenhall-a-bad-role-model-for-millennials/
J. Maureen Henderson (Forbes)What struck me most about his piece was how stereotypically Millennial Mendenhall’s view of his job was. Pro football was no longer fun for him, it wasn’t what he had expected or what it used to be, fellow players were being rewarded for the “wrong” reasons and feedback from fans was increasingly hard to ignore or brush off. Sound familiar? Substitute “account associate” or “fundraising assistant” or “social media coordinator” and you’d have the same laundry list of career complaints you no doubt hear from the twentysomethings in your life, be they peers or family.