Kenny Vaccaro’s Twitter bio says it all: Eight-year NFL vet addicted to video games.
His addiction has won out. As of Wednesday, Vaccaro is retired from the NFL and plans to pursue a career in the emerging esports industry.
The 15th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints said in recent weeks that he turned down offers from teams this season to continue his career. That career, therefore, ends with 110 games played (109) starts at safety for the Saints and the Tennessee Titans. He played at least 11 games in all eight seasons (five with New Orleans, three with Tennessee) and was credited with 739 tackles and 11.5 sacks. He also intercepted 10 passes forced five fumbles and recovered four fumbles.
The 30-year-old will partner with two others in the creation of Gamers First, aka G1, an esports league that plans to emphasize “content, culture and competition.”
“It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Vaccaro said in a release. “I’ve been a gamer for even longer than I’ve played football, and I’ve always thought of myself as a gamer first. So, this is the realization of a dream come true for me.
“And while football has been how many have defined me, G1 is evidence for other athletes as well that life doesn’t have to end just because you put down the helmet. You can reinvent yourself.”
The Titans signed Vaccaro when Johnathan Cyprien sustained a season-ending knee injury in the opening days of the 2018 training camp. He quickly settled in and earned a four-year, $24 million contract the next season. He was halfway through that deal when Tennessee released him in March in a move to free up salary-cap space.
He finished fourth on the team in tackles each of the last two seasons.
With the Saints, he was a part of two teams that reached the postseason but injuries late in those campaigns (2013, 2017) kept him out of playoff action. He made his postseason debut, therefore, with Tennessee in 2019 and was a big part of the run to the AFC Championship game with 19 tackles, one interception, two passes defensed and a tackle for a loss.
In 2020, Vaccaro was one of the most outspoken of the Titans players when the country’s entire professional sports world paused in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. It was clear at that time that football was not the center of his existence as – for a time – he refused to talk about the sport.
Earlier this year, he became part of a groundbreaking minority-owned business in downtown Nashville.
Now, he is on to other things.