A month was all Jermaine Waller needed to know the NFL was not for him.
An undrafted rookie cornerback out of Virginia Tech, Waller retired from football this week, prompting the Detroit Lions to place him on the reserve/retired list Wednesday.
“It wasn’t for him, and that’s OK,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Thursday, on the final day of mandatory minicamp. “You don’t know until you know, and I think he felt like that was – that this wasn’t for him, and that’s OK. So I wish him the best of luck.”
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Waller had a successful but injury-crossed college career, missing most of 2020 with a foot injury. He was a candidate to make the Lions’ practice squad this fall, and his retirement prompted Campbell to reflect on his own retirement from the NFL 12 years ago.
A tight end who played 11 seasons with four teams, Campbell said leaving the game as a player was a “very difficult” decision but one he had to make because of the toll football took on his body.
He played just three games over his final three seasons, including the 2007-08 seasons with the Lions, and missed all of 2009 with a knee injury.
“I couldn’t stay healthy anymore,” Campbell said. “I’ve said that I was like ‘Mr. Glass,’ but I miss the heck out of it and it’s hard. Even then, I felt like – as I think most guys would, even though maybe you can’t go 60 plays, you really do believe you could go a few more. Just a few. Now, you need about a month to recover. That’s hard, but eventually it goes away because the realization is it’s like, ‘Look, that’s why you can’ t do this anymore, ‘because things are happening and either the body begins to break down or mentally you just don’t have it anymore.
“At some point you just don’t feel like running through that wall anymore and that happens. That’s a part of it.”
Waller is the second Lions player to unexpectedly retire in the past 15 months.
Tight end Josh Hill retired last May, less than two months after signing a one-year deal with the Lions.
When counseling players who are considering retirement, Campbell said he asks them to consider two questions: What are their plans for after football, and, “five years from now (when) you look back on this moment, are you going to regret it? “
“You just try to get them to ponder it as much as possible and really – that’s really, ultimately for me what I want to know they’ve done,” Campbell said. “They’ve really thought it out and tried to at least look out and they’ve got a plan, they’re able to know they’re about to make a decision that they can walk away from and never look back on. So that’s part of it. Everybody’s – it hits everybody a little different, at different times and for us on that standpoint, it’s better that it happened now than later. “
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions ‘Dan Campbell retired when:’ I was like Mr. Glass’