A few days shy of his 40th birthday, quarterback Josh McCown announced he is retiring on Monday in an essay for the Players’ Tribune.
A third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 who appeared in games for seven NFL franchises and signed contracts with 10, McCown said he embraces the “journeyman” label.
Not long after, ESPN announced that McCown is joining the network as a studio analyst.
‘It’s been one heck of a journey’
McCown reflects on his early days in his small hometown of Jacksonville, Texas, when he would meet with his high school coach on Saturday mornings, crushing a local delicacy known as a “cheese pig” – hot dogs wrapped in croissants with cheese inside from Donut Palace – as they went over tape from the game the night before.
Five years later, he was laying on his back in the grass at Cardinals training camp, stretching.
“I was in the NFL, thinking about how far I’d come, excited for what was next,” McCown writes. “I wanted to be a franchise quarterback. I wanted to bring a Super Bowl to Arizona. I wanted to retire a Cardinal.
“So if you would have told me back then that I would go on to play for 10 different NFL teams over the next 17 years, I would have said, ‘Shoot, 17 years? I’ll take it.’
“‘But 10 different teams? No way….’
“I guess it just goes to show that you don’t always get to choose your own path. But looking back, I’m proud of how my career has gone. I don’t shy away from the journeyman label. I embrace it, full force.
“Because it’s been one heck of a journey.
“And now, strange as it feels to say, after 17 years … that journey is coming to an end.
“Today I’m officially retiring.”
McCown said deciding to retire has meant his football life has flashed before his eyes, and he made sure to thank everyone who played a role in seeing him through his career.
Like his wife, Natalie.
“I mean, you have to think … I played for 10 NFL teams, plus a stop to play with the Hartford Colonials in the UFL. So there was a lot of moving around and a lot of time spent away from my family,” McCown wrote. “And Natalie held it down at every turn. She was a rock. She made it so I could go and do my job with a clear head, knowing that the kids were good and that everything at home was taken care of.
“Honestly, you can say that about a lot of players’ wives in this league — most, probably. The wives really do have the toughest job of all, and they don’t get nearly the credit they deserve — which is basically … all of it. We couldn’t go out and do what we do on the field if they weren’t at home doing everything that they do.
“I can’t say enough about the role Natalie played in my career. Nothing would have been possible without her.
McCown also thanked his four kids, Bridget, Aubrey, Aiden and Owen; his parents; his agent, Mike McCartney – McCown was his first client and has been with him the whole time; his friends; and every coach, general manager, trainer, team doctor and teammate he’s had along the way.
He made special note of his high school quarterbacks coach, Matt Turner, the man who provided those cheese pigs and graded him hard.
McCown said Turner’s voice has been with him “throughout my entire career.”
McCown finishes with a career record of 23-53 in 76 starts.
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