By Chaunce Hayden

Chaunce Hayden sits down with former NY Giants legend Leonard Marshall about the highs and lows of playing in the NFL.

Chaunce Hayden: As a former NFL player are you able to sit down on a Sunday at be a fan?

Leonard Marshall: Now that I’m out of the game and far removed I’m able to get a chance to be on the outside
looking in. It makes it a lot of fun. I’m able to be a fan and I am a fan! I’m a football fan. I love watching games.
Do I watch them like I did when I was playing? Hell no. Now I just have fun and enjoy the game.

I would think a lot of professional athletes would have a problem walking away from a sport they played and crossing over into being a fan. Is there growing pains associated with not being on the field? No, because I achieved everything I wanted to achieve in football. I played in Pro Bowls, I had the best coach and teammates. I won 2 Super Bowls and with that team I was on we could have won four! I got a chance
to be around great people and I still enjoy those relationships.

Players during the 80s and 90s didn’t make the money players make today. Looking back does that frustrate you? Well, you can get frustrated and you can look to relive the past. But look at this way. Jim Brown came before me and he didn’t make anywhere near the money players during my era made. He was the best. Players like myself, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms made more. Someone always had to come before somebody. I can
only look at my own career and what I was able to do.

 One of your career highlights is when you sacked Joe Montana which ended up being his last play as a San Francisco 49er. What does that play mean to you?
That moment is the highlight of my career because it was a defining moment for me. If you look back at the
play, I slip and I’m on the ground. I begin to crawl and the next think you know a guy dives on my feet but I
never stop. I never give up on the play. I continue to crawl and I work my way up to my feet and see he still has the
ball. So I continue running and right before he throws it I leave my feet and down he goes. The ball goes one way and
he goes another.

Did you say anything to him at that moment?
I didn’t say anything. I just took in the moment. I knew we San Francisco 49er came in with a chip on our shoulder and we showed a great team that we were the better team that day. We out hit them and out played them on that day.

Is football a different game now than it was in when you played?
It’s a money game now. There’s more selfishness now. It’s all about me, me, me. It’s not about the team anymore.
It’s no more we. It’s not about us. It’s about me. The real warriors of the game played when I played. Real warriors. They didn’t give a damn who we were playing. They left it all on that football field. We played to be part of a team. It’s not the same game.

How do you feel about post traumatic head injuries that so many former players are now suffering from?
I suffer from CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). When I got the results I wasn’t shocked. I knew there were cognitive issues going on with me from the game. I knew all the traumatic to my head I had suffered. You play up on a 300 pound tackle and you’re hitting your head 65 to 60 plays a game, trust me after several seasons and hundreds of games, you are going to have a problem.

Are you bitter because of it?
I have a problem that nobody helped me prepare for that. Nobody shared with me these things along the way. I took a physical every year and it was never discussed. This happened to me from playing professional football at a high level with such intensity. So my biggest riff is that the NFL didn’t share the data with me and didn’t prepare me for
life after. I knew I could suffer physical injuries, but I never knew I could develop CTE or ALS from playing football.
It’s very costly and the NFL should pick up the cost and the care. But they don’t do anything for us. There’s a
documentary called “The United States of Football.” I highly recommend everyone watch it to see the truth and the challenges that former players are enduring. There’s a lot of bitter guys out there. There are days when I think the NFL is great and there are days when I hate these mother fuckers. We let them abuse and take advantage of us for
what? Some fame and some money? There’s no retirement handbook. You don’t get shit. They show you
the door and kick you in the ass. Have a great life. That’s what you get. That’s reality.

So what’s the solution?
Education. Educate parents, coaches and kids. From the ages starting at 6 years old you teach kids how to
play tackle football and that the coaches are certified to teach the sport. You make sure the parents are educated
and you give the kid the option based on all the risks and rewards. Why are you playing this game? If the risks
don’t out weigh the reward you might not want to play. I asked my friend Bob Costas if he would let his son play
tackle football and he said to me, “Hell no!” The NFL still won’t admit there’s any problem.


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