SI.com is taking a look at the lives of some of sports' notable former players across the NBA, NFL and MLB. From weighing in on life in retirement to providing their analysis on today's crop of stars, these athletes share their thoughts.
When I retired from the NFL in 2012, I still had gas left in the tank. I had played seven years in Jacksonville and three years in Buffalo, but after the 2010 season, what was supposed to be minor shoulder surgery turned career-ending. I was never able to recover, and my NFL career came to a close.
I felt like I had a successful run in the league. I played well as a Jaguar, making three Pro Bowls. I was still playing pretty well in Buffalo. I wasn't ready to retire. But sometimes life doesn't work the way you expect.
When my pads were off for good, it wasn't easy at first; retirement was boring. But luckily, I've always had interests outside of football. If you don't have pursuits outside of the game, it will drive you crazy. To succeed during retirement, you have to find a purpose other than football. It should be something you're passionate about so that once your career is over, you'll have something else to grasp onto.
After my career ended, I earned a graduate degree in business administration from George Washington University, something that was extremely rewarding for me (I'm actually in the process of trying to obtain an insurance license). But one of the greatest passions I've had a chance to explore in my retirement is helping underprivileged children through the Marcus Stroud Charitable Foundation. We try to give children the opportunity to participate in academic and athletic activities that would be inaccessible to them otherwise.
Following a very good career in the NFL, I wanted to find a way to give back. Growing up, I noticed that a lot of underprivileged children end up with health problems. Especially in lower income households and communities -- where people can't necessarily afford to eat healthy -- unhealthy kids often end up being unhealthy adults. Showing these kids an alternative lifestyle has become one of my post-football passions. If I can plant a seed that would sit with a person for a lifetime, they can spread that to someone else. That's very important to me.
Every time I do something for those kids, I can see how much they and their parents actually appreciate it and enjoy it. The looks on their faces are extremely satisfying for me.
As I help these kids grow and as I continue my own life, I think back to the lessons I learned playing football. The sport taught me structure. It taught me accountability. When I was out on the field, I didn't want to be the guy who let his teammates down. That's why I was so passionate: I never wanted to let my brothers down out on the field. I still use that philosophy to this day.
When I was in Jacksonville, my defensive line coach, Ray Hamilton, used to tell us that if something makes common sense, it's probably the right thing to do. That's what I try to instill in these children. Nine times out of 10 you know right from wrong. The right thing isn't always the easiest thing, but it can be the most rewarding.
I still love football. I miss it sometimes. During football season and especially the playoffs, I still feel that enthusiasm deep inside. I also look at the injuries and the hits that some of these guys are going through, and I don't miss that too much.
But I'm not quite ready to walk away completely from the game. My ultimate dream is to be in the front office of an NFL team. I'm planning on going to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine this year to start learning. Even though I'm studying for my insurance license now, I'd like to eventually get on someone's team, become a scout and work my way up.
I don't know if a spot in an NFL front office is in my future, but I know I have other passions to keep myself going strong in the meantime.