No. 3: The Unique Difficulty of Leaving the NFL "Too Soon."
And what it looks like to carry unnamed grief.
This time nine years ago, Oshiomogho’s NFL career ended in a split second and started a string of sad Septembers I didn’t know I’d be able to shake.
For my entire life, September could always be summed up by three sounds: fresh chalk on an emerald board, the first crunch of fallen leaves and the whistles, crashing helmets, grunts and roar of a crowd during a football game. Many of you know my husband played in the NFL for 8 seasons. My dad is a Hall of Fame player who spent his twelve-year career with the Chicago Bears and split years between the Niners, the Ravens, The Vikings and the Rams as an NFL coach. This is why people always seem shocked to find that, for the past seven years, we haven’t watched football in our house.
Once you get spit out by the machine that is the NFL, it takes a little bit to go back to seeing the little man talking into a megaphone as The Great Oz, you know?
When I met O, I was just starting my own college volleyball career as he was beginning his sixth season with the then St. Louis Rams. I bonded with my mom over how to handle training camp, learned what to say and what not to say after a rough game and navigated seeing him for exactly one hour a month while we both worked our butts off on the court and on the field. We spent offseason training together and both spoke the same language known only to athletes. It was a fairytale of sorts. While my entire life has been shaped and defined by my dad’s playing career, he retired when I was only three. This means I didn’t get to experience an NFL career firsthand despite always wishing I could have. A life with Oshiomogho Atogwe felt like such a theatrical work of the Lord.
O playing for the Rams while my Dad was head coach for the Niners meant that they were in the same division. One couldn’t succeed without it meaning the end of the road for the other and the second to last game of the season in 2010—Rams vs. Niners— was the ugliest, must brutal reality of this tug-of-war.
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