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Monday, 23 March 2015

Chris Borland: The Linebacker Who's Retirement Will Rock Football

chris borland, linebacker, 49ersOn March 16th, rookie linebacker Chris Borland rocked the football world. After one season in the NFL, Borland is calling it quits citing health concerns as his primary reason.

The short saga of Chris Borland goes deeper and begins long before his Monday announcement. When someone makes such an unusual decision, especially with fame and fortune on line, it deserves a closer, and more in depth look.

The start of Borland's football career can be traced back to the Ohio town of Kettering, where he played two varsity seasons for Archbishop Alter High School.

According to, over two seasons with the Archbishop Alter Knights, Borland racked up 72 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. As a running back he amassed 805 rushing yards as well as 15 total touchdowns. He was also First Team All-State, All Conference Player of the Year, Team MVP as well as Team Captain.

It was no shock when he was welcomed into the Big-10 by the Wisconsin Badgers with open arms in 2009. He did anything but disappoint. His freshman performance earned him the distinction of Big 10 Freshman of the Year. He finished his career in Wisconsin with 420 total tackles (105/year) 125 tackles-for-loss (12.5/year) and 17 sacks (4.25/year).

Fast forward to the 2014 NFL Draft. This is where all of the hard work pays off for a fraction of those talented enough to even make it this far. Its taken years of blood, sweat and tears, endless hours in the gym, two-a-days and miles upon miles of wind sprints. The emotional roller coaster made up of victories and losses, many times in front of an audience of millions. Some dreams will come true, and even more will be shattered.  This isnt the average "You're hired" moment.

When the San Fransico 49ers made their pick in the 3rd-round (77th overall) they needed a linebacker. At this moment somebody from the 49ers' front made a call to a young man whose life's work seemingly was about to pay off. This young man was Chris Borland.

The 49ers inked Borland to a rookie contract worth $2.9 million, earning him $574,369 in 2014. After starting in eight of the 14 games he played in, Borland totaled 108 tackles and 1 sack.

His impact was even greater than what the numbers show. In week 10 Borland recovered a fumble that lead his team to a 27-24 overtime victory over the Saints.

Then we arrive at March 16, 2015. Chris Borland announces his retirement from football. He stated that concerns for his health led him to making this decision.

After a 7 total season career, Borland had made 618 total tackles and 18 sacks. Thats 636 instances of slamming yourself into another human being who's also trying to smash his way through you. That doesn't even include practices, scrimmages ect.  All of this on top of the NFL agreeing to a settlement with former players who sued due to what they claimed were football related injuries, the year before.

So what clicked in the mind of Chris Borland after just one season in the NFL, that made him realize that playing football comes with risks? How could he not know that? The Simple answer is this: he did know, but it didnt stop him from cashing in on more than half a million dollars before breaking his contract.

Of course Chris Borland has the right to "retire" whenever he chooses. Nobody can make him play. That would be absurd to think otherwise, and he has recieved a flurry of support from other players.     

WOW. I loved Chris Borland's game but I can't fault him for calling it quits. His concerns are real. Still it takes a man to do the logical.
-- Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) 


Pleasure playing with you Chris Borland and against you for the @49ers; Praying for you. #OnWisconsin
-- Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) 

What we can do is sit back and wonder why a young man in his twenties would walk away from millions of dollars citing health concerns, when he knew the risks all along. This is a question that has left quite a few people scratching their heads.


No offense to anyone but I'm playing until I can't anymore. I love this game to much.
-- Bobby Wagner (@Bwagz54) 


Americans routinely assume far greater physical risks for far less money and fame than the risk/reward of playing in the NFL.
-- ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) 


Chris Borland was scheduled to make $530K this year, plus $10K workout bonus. Not many jobs pay 24-year-olds $540K for 6 months of work.
-- Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) 


While we may never know the answer, it still raises some interesting questions and puts more scrutiny on the NFL to make the game safer.


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