Today is a difficult day for me, but it is also a day of reflection and gratitude. Playing for Mr. Khan, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the city of Jacksonville has been a tremendous honor. During my seven years as a Jaguars player, I've always pursued success and winning football games, while preparing and training with the highest standards of competition, passion and perseverance. It has been an honor to represent my family, my teammates and the people of Jacksonville.
With much sadness but without regret, I realize that I am no longer able to adhere to the unwavering standard of excellence that professional football demands. I say this with a heavy heart: I am retiring from the NFL. I love the game of football so much, and I know there is truly only one acceptable way to play. Knowing I can no longer compete at a level that I find acceptable, I have chosen to end my football career. This decision is mine alone, and although I know this will not bring me happiness, it is the right and honorable action to take at this time in my life. I cherished every moment of my NFL career, and it has been such a blessing to play the game for as long as I have played. I anxiously look forward to next football season to arrive, but this time with the sole focus of being a great husband and father for my loving family.
Reflecting on my eleven years in the NFL, and all that was required to reach my current situation, reminded me of the many people I owe humble, sincere gratitude.
No one has felt the burden of my physical pain and mental anguish more than my loving wife, Elizabeth. She has been with me throughout my entire professional career, and was completely dedicated to helping me become my absolute best, on and off the field. I would have never played for as long as I did without her endless support and love. For at least six months of every year, she knew football would be a high priority, that I would come home tired, focused only on football, and sometimes injured; that even while I was home, my mind was often at work, thinking about defensive calls, offensive formations and tendencies, and third down threats. Yet she never complained or voiced her displeasure with me, although she had every right to do so. She has provided unwavering support through winning and losing, success and failure, and although she occasionally wanted to, she never once asked me to stop playing the game I love. I will spend the rest of eternity trying to give back to her all that she has given me.
Although I will miss football dearly, I look forward to spending more time with my daughters. Dance class and dollhouses will be a new challenge, but for them, I will do my absolute best. To my girls, thank you, and I love you more than anything.
My mother and father provided me with the perfect combination of love and discipline, and taught me what hard work and persistence truly are. All that I am, and everything I have done, is because of them. Every time I put on a uniform, I have always strived to honor them and the principles they stand for, and I can only hope that I haven't let them down. Late in seasons past, I was asked far too many times by reporters about what possible motivation I could have to play hard knowing we were eliminated from the postseason. As a professional, the reasons to put in maximum effort and commitment are endless, but the most important reason for me was always simple – my dad would be watching.
My brothers and sisters have each greatly helped me in a variety of ways. All of them have been extremely influential in all facets of my life, and having them as siblings transformed me into the person I am today. They have given me steadfast support through every phase of my life in athletics, from little league football to the NFL. Whether it was through traveling to see me play or through game day text messages, their love and support always supplied me with strength. I owe them a great deal, and feel very fortunate to have them as family. To Mary, Stan, Anne and Dave, thank you, and I love you all.
Western Pennsylvania has had an enormous and lasting impact on me as a person and as a football player. The people and personality of the entire region provides a crystal-clear vision of what toughness, discipline and hard work truly are. Playing youth football there provided the foundation for my entire athletic career. As a young boy, with tears in my eyes and afraid of contact, my first football coach approached me on the practice field and stated with a steely-eyed glare, "Either stop crying, or get off the field." Thankfully, I wiped my eyes and continued to run and hit for the next 25 years.
The young men I had the honor to play with at Hopewell High School were great teammates and are outstanding people. The struggles we shared playing football and basketball together forged life-long relationships, and I am so very fortunate to be able to consider some of those teammates my greatest friends, men like Matthew Fontana, Michael Mack and Gregory Rosatelli. Without these men, I would have never played in the NFL. I will be forever grateful for them and all our teammates, coaches and teachers at Hopewell High.
I would like to offer my deepest thanks to the Pennsylvania State University, and the entire Nittany Lion family. Playing football for the legendary Coach Joe Paterno provided me with a priceless education and wonderful memories. I formed lasting friendships with my college roommates; played with outstanding men like Sean Lee, Dan Connor, Tim Shaw and Michael Robinson; practiced the game of football with elite coaches like Tom Bradley and Ron Vanderlinden; and most importantly, learned that just being a football player was never going to be good enough. Living a life of "Success With Honor," being a great son, brother, husband, father, as well as serving your community and helping others, was always far more important than tackling running backs.
In 2007, Marv Levy of the Buffalo Bills drafted me to play middle linebacker for his team, and the late Mr. Ralph Wilson gave me the opportunity to play professionally the game I love with all my heart. I will be forever grateful to the Buffalo Bills organization, my teammates in Buffalo and the fans of Western New York for allowing me to be a small part of that storied franchise and amazing city. I wish them all the best.
Football is truly the ultimate team sport, and being a part of an NFL organization makes that all the more evident. So many people devote their time to helping the players, and I would like to thank everyone in the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, former and current, for all that you have done for me over the last seven years. The athletic trainers, the men in the equipment room, Tom Myslinski and his strength training staff, Mike Perkins and the video department, Jaguars Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Kevin Kaplan, our team priests who dedicated their prayers to us, as well as the ticketing, sales and administrative departments. Everyone has helped me immensely and has performed a vital role in the Jaguars organization. Thank you for all that you have done for my family and me.
The coaches I have learned from and played for as a Jaguar have been nothing short of outstanding. It was an absolute privilege to play for all of them, from Coach Jack Del Rio in 2011 to Coach Doug Marrone during my final season. All of the position coaches, defensive coordinators, and special teams coaches were absolutely devoted to helping me perform to the best of my abilities. Thank you for your effort and dedication. It was an honor to play for you.
Success eluded me for the vast majority of my career. All of that changed with the promotion of Coach Doug Marrone and the return of Tom Coughlin a year ago. I would like to offer my deepest thanks to them for allowing me to experience the most challenging offseason program and training camp of my career, for that experience prompted the success of the 2017-18 season. The AFC South Division title was won because of the hard work and discipline you demanded of us. Thank you for bringing us out of the darkness and back into the light, and for demanding a non-negotiable standard of excellence that will propel the Jacksonville Jaguars forward for years to come. I am excited to watch and cheer for you.
I would also like to thank Mr. Wayne Weaver and former GM Gene Smith for bringing me to Jacksonville, and to Mr. Khan, Tony Khan and GM Dave Caldwell for allowing me to stay. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to call myself a Jacksonville Jaguar for the past seven years.
To my exceptional teammates, former and current, I owe you everything. I look forward to addressing you formally and privately at a later date, but please know that I love and respect all of you, and not having the opportunity to be around you is what will hurt most of all. Forming friendships and unbreakable bonds of trust on the field is what makes football so special and so important to me. When reminiscing on my NFL career, I won't think about games won or lost, plays made or missed, but rather, I know I will think about you and the time we shared together, the trust and love we had for each other and the unwavering willingness we had to help each other succeed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The city of Jacksonville and the devoted fans of the Jaguars are simply amazing. Seven years ago, upon arriving in Jacksonville, I received the warmest welcome possible, and Jacksonville has been my home ever since. The dedication and passion the fans display has been inspiring. During a Sunday afternoon in the fall, there is no doubt the collective roar of our enthusiastic fans provides strength for the players. Although far too often we didn't win as much as you deserve, you never wavered. Countless times I was approached by fans and loyal season ticket holders who gave me nothing but words of encouragement and support. I cannot thank you enough.
I thank God every day for all that He has given me: my family, my friends, my teammates and for making me an American. Today, I would like to thank God for making me a Jacksonville Jaguar, and for allowing me the privilege of an 11-year professional football career.