San Diego Chargers offensive lineman Kris Dielman will reportedly announce his retirement at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow. The 31-year-old will be walking away from the game in the midst of his prime, and is probably leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table.
That said, he is making the right decision.
During a game against the New York Jets on October 23, Dielman suffered a concussion but refused to leave the game. Later that night on the Chargers' flight back to San Diego, he suffered a violent, grand mal seizure.
A few weeks later on November 16, Dielman was placed on injured reserve as a result of that concussion, ending his season.
Dielman is said to be aware that he could play again, but will retire because of long-term health concerns. While I'm a die-hard Chargers fan and I'll be incredibly sad to see him go, he is making the right decision. Family and personal health should always come before football.
This isn't just some random guy who is retiring, as Dielman is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. He had gone to four-straight Pro Bowls entering this season and had he not missed most of this season, he was likely to reach a fifth straight.
Dielman wasn't handed anything in the NFL. After spending his final season at Indiana University as a defensive lineman—he played offensive line before that—he went undrafted in 2003. The Chargers signed him and immediately turned him into a guard.
He spent the first two years of his career learning the position, while not starting a single game. But the hard-nosed Hoosier stood out for his toughness, grit and hard work, which forced the Chargers to keep him on the roster.
Then in 2005 he took over a starting spot and developed quickly. He's been cited as a big part of LaDainian Tomlinson's record-breaking season in 2006. Then came four-consecutive Pro Bowl seasons.
One of the reasons Dielman is so loved in San Diego is that after his first Pro-Bowl year in 2007, he was offered a $48.2 million contract by the Seattle Seahawks, but he turned it down at the last minute and opted to return to San Diego for a deal worth just $39 million. Dielman didn't turn away from the only team that gave him a chance coming out of college. That loyalty is rare in professional sports these days.
It will be hard to see Dielman walk away in the middle of his prime. He has plenty of good years left and surely could have made a whole lot more money. But he's also walking away, not leaving on a stretcher or being helped by anyone else.
I can't help but be happy for him that he is doing what's best for his long-term health and his family.