While Mendenhall writes that "he’s thankful that I can walk away at this time and smile over my six years in the NFL, and 17 total seasons of football," he also says he wishes he could just "disappear" and was OK with the idea of "fading to black" rather than holding a press conference full of cliche answers.
He also details how the game has changed, with an increased focus on statistics and fantasy value, and how the business of entertainment has "shifted the game."
"I’ve always been a professional. But I am not an entertainer. I never have been. Playing that role was never easy for me. The box deemed for professional athletes is a very small box. My wings spread a lot further than the acceptable athletic stereotypes and conformity was never a strong point of mine."
Mendenhall, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2008 draft, struggled with turf toe for much of last season. He also tore his ACL while playing with the Steelers two years ago.
The constant threat of injury also weighed on his decision to leave the game.
"So when they ask me why I want to leave the NFL at the age of 26, I tell them that I’ve greatly enjoyed my time, but I no longer wish to put my body at risk for the sake of entertainment. I think about the rest of my life and I want to live it with much quality. And physically, I am grateful that I can walk away feeling as good as I did when I stepped into it."
Mendenhall rushed for 4,236 yards in his career and scored 39 total touchdowns.