Wesley Walker, a former New York Jets wide receiver from 1977 to 1989, told the New York Daily News that the fame and money from his NFL career was not worth the physical toll the sport took on his body.
Walker, 59, said he is "in pain head to toe" every day and wishes he had retired early like former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, who announced Monday that he is retiring after one year in the league due to concerns over "the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma."
"You have to self-evaluate and know what your priorities are and what the situation is," Walker said. "I admire a guy who is going to look long-term and figure he's going to do something else and create another path. I would like to think people are getting smarter with that."
Walker spent 13 seasons in the NFL and was a two-time Pro Bowler. Since his retirement he has had surgery on both shoulders, back surgery that required 10 screws and a plate, spinal fusion surgery that required 14 screws and surgery for a torn Achilles, according to the Daily News.
"I would have taken another path," he said. "Maybe become a commentator. Just from a physical standpoint, there is no way I would put my body through what I do now. I don’t wish this on anybody."
Walker told the Daily News that he was never diagnosed with a concussion during his career, but is certain he sustained a few. He said he felt pressure to play from teammates, coaches and even trainers, who would tell him that "50% of him was better than 100% of his backup."
- Molly Geary