There's 'More To Life Than Sports': Lineman On Leaving NFL

Feb 2, 2014
Originally published on February 9, 2014 1:35 am

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

John Moffitt started playing football when he was 8 years old, and made it all the way to the top of the game. He played offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks for two seasons, then got traded to another powerhouse team, the Denver Broncos.

Incidentally, those two teams are playing in Super Bowl XLVIII, but Moffitt won't be on the field; he quit midway through this season.

Playing for an NFL team means working long weeks — hard practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a slower practice on Fridays, Saturday walk-throughs, Sunday game days, and meeting on Mondays to go over Sunday's win or loss.

"I would just almost hate every day of the week, except for like Tuesday and Saturday," Moffitt tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "I think it's drudgery, honestly, and I was so bored with it."

When Moffitt decided to quit, he called John Elway, legendary Bronco and head of football operations for the team, for guidance. "He was really great about it," Moffitt says. "He respected my decision. The whole organization did."

But his friends and family were shocked. "At first it was tough for them to hear, and at first the support wasn't really there." But eventually, they realized Moffitt was quitting for the right reasons.

Moffitt thinks that maybe things would have been different if he'd been a big star, starting every game. "If I was out there playing, and maybe [had] that adrenaline, maybe I would have stayed."

But he's happy not playing in the NFL, even though it would mean he could be playing in the Super Bowl. "I honestly feel like the craze of the NFL and the obsession nationwide is the biggest distraction and some of the worst television at times, and just, like, a waste of time," he says. "There's so much more to life than sports."

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JOHN MOFFITT: It's a brutal job and it sucks. Honestly, like the only way I can think.


MOFFITT: I'm trying to think of it like the most like articulate way I could say, but I'm like the first thing that comes to mind is just brutal and it sucks. Like, your whole job is to physically dominate people. So the way you practice for that...


MOFFITT: also a brutal kind of a practice.


That is the voice of John Moffitt. And the brutal job he's talking about is playing in the NFL as an offensive lineman, most recently for the Denver Broncos. Moffitt played for both Denver and the Seattle Seahawks during his career. Those are, of course, the teams squaring off today in the Super Bowl.

The 27-year-old Moffitt could have been on the field today. But last fall, he walked away from the NFL midseason, losing out on more than a million dollars in salary and all the fame and potential glory that come from playing professional football.

John Moffitt is our Sunday Conversation.

MOFFITT: Well, I remember my work week in the NFL and, you know, we work real hard Wednesdays, Thursdays. Fridays would slow down a little bit, and then Saturday walk-through, Sunday you play the game, Monday you go through it. Tuesday, you're off. And I would just almost take every day of the week except for like, Tuesday and Saturday.

I think it's drudgery, honestly. And I was so bored with it. I remember being at a practice like stretching out, warming up, and some of the last few times and just being like this is just, this is not a dream for me, like this is misery. And I just didn't even want to do the practice 'cause I felt like I'd been doing it for so long. You know?

MARTIN: When you decided to quit, you called up John Elway, who is the head of football operations for the Broncos - huge legend in that town with that team. What was that conversation like? Was it awkward?

MOFFITT: No. He was really great about it. He asked me the questions. You know, obviously, he was curious. But he respected my decision. The whole organization did.

MARTIN: What about your friends and family? How did they react?

MOFFITT: They were pretty shocked. I think it's the people that are closest to you that it kind of affects because they had partially lived it as well. So, they were really shocked. And at first it was tough for them to hear and at first the support wasn't really there. I think when everything kind of went, you know, everything cooled down, they came around and saw that I was really doing it for the right reasons.

MARTIN: Is this something you had done in the past? Would your friends and family describe you as someone who makes impulsive decisions?

MOFFITT: No. I'm definitely, I mean, I would consider myself slightly impulsive decision but I'm not impulsive to the extent of, like, a major massive, you know, life shifts. You know, it's funny; someone asked me a question the other day and I found it very interesting. And they said do you think that it's possible that your impulsive decision is the result of possible CT symptoms or brain-related injuries that you might have sustained during the NFL? Now, I look at it on the humoristic side and basically said, well, I quit the NFL because the NFL, and you're basically saying I quit the NFL because of the NFL.

MARTIN: Do you think it would have been different had you been a huge star, if you were starting every game and got to feed off the adrenaline of being out there in the field of big moments?

MOFFITT: Yeah. I totally agree. If I was out there playing, and maybe that adrenaline or maybe a part of that, maybe I would have stayed. Maybe it would have changed me. But I think the whole entire process and my whole entire path was something that was drawn out of myself and something that I think I'm really happy the way it all happened. I would never trade it for anything. I don't want to be in the NFL right now.

MARTIN: You don't want to be in the Super Bowl?

MOFFITT: No, I don't. I'm very happy with where I am. I honestly feel like the craze of the NFL and the obsession nationwide is the biggest distraction and some of the worst television at times and just like a waste of time.

MARTIN: That's hard for me to hear, John, as a football fan.

MOFFITT: Yeah. It's just too much though. I feel like all we watch now is sports. I feel like all we talk about is sports. And it's just - I think there's so much more to life than sports. And maybe this is coming from a person who has been doing this for 20 years and I'm just very much done with it.

MARTIN: We've been focusing on your decision to quit, but I'd like to go back to when you started playing football. What did you like about it?

MOFFITT: It's funny. I hate saying it now, 'cause I don't really look at things like this anymore, but I liked the brutality of it, I liked the violence of it. Now, I don't really - I try to look at myself as more of a, you know, I'm not a violent person. I don't really try to enjoy violence anymore, enjoy people getting hurt or hit. I don't look for that and I don't want that, but I was a person that did do that.

MARTIN: How long did you play football? When did you start? Were you really little?

MOFFITT: I was 8 years old when I started.

MARTIN: What are you doing now? Are you feeling any kind of void or are you just making plans for the future?

MOFFITT: A little bit, yeah, yeah. There's a huge void. And not an emotional void, just a time void and almost a purpose void. You know, I have a podcast, I just started. I'm really excited about that. I'm writing about a lot of my experience in the NFL. So, that's kind of what I'm doing, more of the creative stuff. But, yeah, there's a void because my work, it's so abstract now and before it was so concrete. You know, go to work nine to five, hit people, your results are on Sunday. So, now it's that big transitional phase for me. But I'm really excited 'cause I'm doing the things that I'm passionate about again.

MARTIN: Former NFL offensive lineman John Moffitt. Thanks so much for talking with us, John.

MOFFITT: Thank you very much.


MARTIN: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.