Joel Reinders retired from football on Wednesday, then gave an honest interview as to why. The fact that he didn’t love football and has left the game to try and become a police officer will seem odd to some and downright crazy to others but it makes perfect sense: the idea that every professional athletes loves what they do is a fallacy but very few have the courage to make a change. Reinders has found his calling and left before the game spat him out, as it does to so many. I’m happy for him, I hope he makes it.
When Joel Reinders was in high school, his mother Colleen used to ask him a simple question: “What’s your passion?”
He didn’t know. But then football came along and it seemed an easy, logical route to take. At 6-foot-8 and nearly 300 pounds, the Oakville native started playing at the University of Waterloo and that led to an opportunity with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, followed by a Grey Cup championship with the Toronto Argonauts.
Here’s the thing: The game was never his calling. Not really.
“Football was always something that I could physically do, it wasn’t something that I loved,” Reinders said Wednesday. “Then I got to the big time and to stop a rolling train like that is difficult. Even when I wasn’t enjoying all aspects of it, it would have been difficult to say I was done playing.”
On Wednesday, however, the 27-year-old Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive lineman said just that. He took to Instagram and Twitter to announce he was retiring. There are a number of reasons why, but here’s the main one: He’s found the thing he wants to do with his life.
“I feel like I can use my time better as a police officer and give back to the community and help people,” Reinders said. “I just feel like my personality is better suited to being a police officer than a football player.”
His body helped him make the decision. He’s dealt with nagging injuries his whole career and is aware of the growing body of research that links football to cognitive impairment later in life. It’s not the reason, he says, just a factor.
“They say that offensive lineman don’t need concussions, it’s just the repetitive hits that build up and build up and when you’re 40 or 50, you realize there’s damage because of football,” he said. “I hope to have a family one day and I hope to run around with them.”
In truth, this has been coming for a while. He knows the Ticats were frustrated by his lack of on-field progress, getting ready to move on. So earlier this month, well before the CFL draft, he let them know he’d decided to step away. Then he kept it quiet until after Tuesday night’s selection of Canadian players.
“Severing ties with football isn’t going to be devastating to me. But it will tough not seeing some of the guys again and not be part of the locker-room,” Reinders said. “It was an attractive lifestyle, I just didn’t really fit the part in the end.”
Reinders lives in Burlington and will continue to stay in involved in local chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters. He’s already gone through a large portion of the screening process to become a police officer and hopes to begin applying for jobs shortly. There are no guarantees but it all goes back to those conversations with his mom about passion.
“I could never give her a straight answer because I didn’t know what it was. Everyone assumed it was football because I was playing at such a high level. But I think I’ve finally found out,” Reinders said.
“So I’m putting everything aside to give it everything I got.”