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Emmett Cleary retired from the NFL to become a doctor


Last month Lions offensive lineman Emmett Cleary announced his retirement at age 27, but he didn’t say why he was walking away. Now he has said why: He’s going to medical school.

Cleary told ESPN he started to realize he was always going to be just the guy fighting for a roster spot and a league-minimum salary, and so he decided he wanted something more.

“It’s a tough league, and most guys don’t get to [walk away on their own] for whatever reason,” he said. “But let’s not . . . I’m not Jason Witten here. I’ve been a fringe player for years and years and years. I’ve been cut plenty of times. Yeah, the league was going to be done with me at some point, so I’m not too hung up on the way it ended. I hope Joe Thomas got a little more press than me this offseason. That’s truly walking away on your own terms. I’m on the minimum.”

Cleary will start medical school at USC in the fall, and for now he’s in Chicago working as a research assistant and data analyst studying physical therapy and brain function.