Recently, the connection between head injuries and long-term chronic health conditions has received plenty of attention, and rightfully so. But there’s another challenge that former NFL players face after they quit playing in the NFL.
Big men often end up getting even bigger. And as a result dying far too young.
Former Eagles tackle Antone Davis, a first-round pick in 1991, found himself at 476 pounds. And Davis knew he needed to take action.
“I remember getting on a scale and looking at myself going, ‘You’re 24 pounds away from 500,’” Davis recently told Jim Gehman of PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “It just blew me away. I didn’t physically think I could actually get that big, but I was 476 pounds. I’ll never forget it.
“That coupled with Reggie White passing away, Harry Galbreath passing away, all these NFL offensive and defensive linemen passing away; I started looking closer to home. I realized there are actually seven guys that were former [college] teammates of mine that all passed away. All younger and all lighter than me. So here I am the heaviest guy, and the oldest guy, and I’m not dead yet. I think it was just a reality check. If you don’t do something, you are going to die. There are no ifs, ands or buts.”
After landing on NBC’s The Biggest Loser last year, Davis finished second by plummeting to 245 pounds. And now he wants to help other former players get themselves in shape.
“We’re trying to put together a program to try to help guys because a lot of people don’t know the average life expectancy of offensive and defensive linemen in the NFL is about 52 years,” Davis said. “I have to attribute it primarily to the body size. Most guys, just like me, once you leave the league you just kind of fall by the wayside doing your own thing. Working out is not the forefront.
“We’re trying to approach the NFLPA. We have plans hopefully to approach the NFL, and individual teams if we have to. We hope that people recognize that there is a serious need to help these guys get their weight under control. I understand [the current players] need the bulk to be able to play. I get that. But you also need that help and that new life lesson on how you’re going to live the rest of your life once you’re done.”
Amen to that, and kudos to Davis for showing his peers that there’s a way to turn things around before it’s too late. Here’s hoping that the NFLPA and the NFL eventually put as much effort into helping players transition their eating and workout habits after retirement as the union and league are now devoting to the problem of concussions. Though the body can’t function very well without the brain, the heart is fairly important, too.