Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive linemen Mathieu Girard is retiring from football at the age of 25 and while his departure makes perfect sense on a personal level, there’s little question his sudden departure will make things more difficult for the team in the short term.
Girard has taken a full-time job in information technology with KPMG, an international professional services company with revenues in excess of $25 billion (yes, billion) in 2016. For a guy with a degree in the field – he’s also working on his Master’s – it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“As much as I love football, I’m looking at my long-term goals,” Girard said. “I didn’t want to finish playing at 35-years-old without any job experience.”
Girard said he’ll make nearly as much with KPMG as he would have with the Ticats this season and that his earning prospects in the future are far greater away from football.
There were other, albeit lesser factors as well. The job allows him to live full-time in his native Montreal where he and his fiancée have just purchased a home. And after suffering a head injury that forced him to miss the final game of the 2016 regular season and the playoffs, Girard is more aware than ever of the risks involved in playing.
“I’ve always been healthy but the concussion did scare me a little,” Girard said. “Physically, I’m feeling good but it got me thinking ‘is it worth it?'”
Originally a sixth round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of Montreal, Girard has developed into a useful, versatile player after converting from defensive line. He played in all 18 games his rookie season in 2015 as back up offensive lineman and long snapper, then made six starts at centre last year in place of the injured Mike Filer.
With the release of Peter Dyakowski on Feb. 16 – before the Ticats knew Girard was retiring – the third-year man would have likely been in contention for a starting spot, particularly if the team was looking to use four Canadian offensive linemen among their seven national starters. With his departure, that’s almost impossible.
Would the Ticats have released Dyakowsi had they known Girard was walking away from the game? Unlikely.
“Part of me feels bad about it because I love my teammates and I don’t see myself as the best player on the team but I think I could have helped the team,” Girard said. “But in this business, you either go on your own terms or the team decides when it’s time for you to go.”
Girard said he hasn’t doubted his decision since informing the team close to a month ago and has already lost 25 pounds from his playing weight of 310 as he tries to get down to a more healthy 250 pounds.
“The Ticats asked me why but they understood,” Girard said. “There was nothing they could have done to make me stay. I told them ‘I’ve made peace with this already.’”
While he has no interest in coaching, Girard plans to stay involved with the game as a fundraiser for the University of Montreal. And he plans on watching his former team when they come to Percival Molson Stadium next season.
“As much as I love Montreal, I enjoyed playing for the Ticats, the way the city and the fans support the team,” he said. “I’ll miss that, too.”