JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - NFL retirement press conferences happen all the time. In any given year, there are several notable players who hang up the cleats and are worthy of an event like Monday's media gathering for Paul Posluszny.
Rarely, if ever, is there more emotion for a healthy player who is calling it quits.
When Telvin Smith stepped to the podium to introduce his teammate and friend, the tears began as soon as he opened his mouth.
"As soon as I met him, I knew I had a guy that I could trust, who I could depend on," Smith said. "I love him."
That's the kind of impact that Posluszny made on Smith and many other teammates in his 11-year career, the last seven spent in Jacksonville with the Jaguars.
In his 11 years, the first four with the Buffalo Bills, Posluszny recorded 16 sacks, 15 interceptions and over 1,000 tackles. But the numbers only tell a fraction of the story. The former Penn State star played every game, prepared every day with the intent of doing everything right. From his nutrition and strength training, to film study, to the way he lead by example and how he interacted with fans and members of the media, finding a critical word about Posluszny was a nearly impossible task.
During Monday's event, Posluszny said that he didn't want to retire, but that he would rather retire too soon, than too late. He didn't want to be unable to make a play that a teammate was relying on. He also talked about the bonds that he made through competition and the closeness he felt with his teammates.
"A great fear of mine is where can you find that in society," Posluszny said. "To be in a room together and learn together. To be grown men who hit people as hard as you can, and then say to each other, ‘I love ya.’ That’s what I’m going to miss the most."
Aside from something like the military or other first responders, he is not likely to find the kind of closeness with a team that includes a physical aspect, like football does.
I asked "Poz" if there was a moment or series of moments for which he wanted to be remembered. He said simply that he wanted fans to remember the way he went about his business.
"I hope people remember my effort," Posluszny said. "I hope they remember that I was tough and gave great effort. Those are the things you can control."
Anyone who watched Posluszny play would recognize those traits. Smith recalled the moment he realized that Posluszny was something special.
"I saw this guy tear his pec, and the next play, keep going," Smith said. "A lot of people how to take that type of pain. But he took it and he went in again. They had to pull him out of the game."
Former teammates offered comments on Posluszny's retirement, further proof of the impact he made in the game.
"Paul has been the most important influence in my career and the embodiment of hard work, discipline and class," said Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, a Penn State alum. "Watching him play, with his incredible talent, relentless motor and unflinching toughness, he inspired me to work harder and to try to play at a higher level. On and off the field, he will forever be the standard I try to live up to."
Former Jaguars head coach and current Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley called it a privilege to share his time in Jacksonville with Posluszny.
"Your leadership and ability to help others, both on and off the field, has had a profound impact, not only on me, but on so many other coaches and players during your incredible football career," Bradley said. "I feel fortunate to have experienced your competitive spirit firsthand. You always led by example and because of that, you possessed a unique ability to instantly inspire those around you. There are no words to truly reflect the impact that you had on all the organizations and communities you were a part of during your time in the NFL. To say you’ll be missed is beyond an understatement."
His final head coach, Doug Marrone, said that it didn't take long to realize the kind of player, and leader, Posluszny would be for his team.
"From the second I stepped foot inside EverBank Field in January 2015, it was very easy to see the impact and legacy that Paul Posluszny was making on the Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville," Marrone said. "He exemplifies everything that it means to be a true professional. He came in every single day with the intention of improving as a football player and aiding in the development of those around him."
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