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Washington Commanders 2020 draft pick abruptly retires at age 24 to return to college

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A Washington Commanders' 2020 fourth-round pick is already calling it a career after just two seasons in the NFL.

Head coach Ron Rivera announced Thursday that tight end Antonio Gandy-Golden is retiring at the age of 24 to return to school. The decision apparently surprised Rivera, who sounded like he was looking forward to having Gandy-Golden in the tight end room after he converted from a wide receiver this offseason.

"I was a little surprised just because I thought he was doing a good job in our offense and was making some good strides," Rivera said. "I love who he is as a man, and I wish him all the best as he goes back and starts what's next.

"He just felt the time was now. He told me he wanted to go back to school and continue his education, and then go from there."

The Commanders drafted the 6-foot-4 Gandy-Golden out of Liberty with the 142nd pick in 2020 but he missed most of the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He tallied just one catch for three yards on seven targets and one rush for 22 yards in six games in 2020.

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Washington waived Gandy-Golden before the 2021 season, where he spent time on the practice squad and active roster but didn't record a catch in four appearances. He signed a reserve/futures contract after the season before converting to tight end. Gandy-Golden reportedly gained 27 pounds this past offseason to make the positional switch.

“I’ve only ever played receiver since I started football,” Gandy-Golden said on the move last week. “It’s been cool, but it’s been a lot of hard work.It’s all about being able to adapt in this league to last longer. When they asked me, it confirmed they have the confidence in me to be able to do that.”

It's unclear if Gandy-Golden is returning to Liberty or another school. He was pursuing a degree in graphic design at Liberty, according to his college profile page, before leaving in 2019. At Liberty, Gandy-Golden caught 150 passes for 2,433 yards and 20 touchdowns in two seasons.

"He's a heck of a young man. He really did do a nice job for us," Rivera saidl. "We appreciate who he is and who he was for us as a football player and a young man. Because he's a bright young man, I really do believe he has a bright future ahead of him."

Antonio Gandy-Golden is going back to school. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Antonio Gandy-Golden is going back to school. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)