He is the standard against which nails, leather, and Chuck Norris are measured.
He is the one who knocks, the one who once played an NFL game without feeling in one arm, his triceps tendon ripped in two.
He is ...
“Jack Mewhort, and I’ve said it before: I played with a lot of tough guys in my nine years in the league,” former Indianapolis Colts lineman Joe Reitz told me, “but nobody was tougher than Jack. A great teammate, a great friend.”
A guy who gave football everything.
Until there was nothing left to give.
Mewhort, an offensive lineman for the Colts by way of St. John’s Jesuit and Ohio State, announced last week he is retiring at age 26.
In one respect, it is a cold reminder of the drive-by nature of a crash-test league, where the average career runs 3.3 years. Mewhort hates he is walking away, because nobody loved his team and teammates more.
How much? Rewind to Week 6 of the 2016 season: Indianapolis at Houston.
The game he tore his triceps, the same season-ending-type injury that, for perspective, ended retired Browns left tackle Joe Thomas’ consecutive snaps streak at 10,363 last year.
“I remember Jack coming to the sideline saying, ‘I can’t move my arm! I can’t move my arm!’” Reitz said.
“’What do I do?’ The trainers suggested he come out. Jack said, ‘I’m not coming out!’ I’m like, ‘Just keep your feet in front of your man.’”
So Mewhort did just that, spending the rest of the night holding off 300-pound men with one arm — one more example why, as Colts GM Chris Ballard put it, he was nothing short of “revered among his coaches, teammates, and staff.”
That was Mewhort to the end, fighting like hell to be there for his team, even as his body increasingly betrayed him. After starting 30 games his first two years, the Colts’ second-round pick in 2014 became a human Operation game the past two seasons, a strained ligament here, a ruptured tendon there, knee surgeries everywhere. Every morning, he awoke in pain.
Of course, Mewhort would have done it again this season if he could.
So, yes, retiring kills him.
But he is at peace. Recognizing he couldn’t do it again, Mewhort said he almost smiled when he walked off the practice field for what he knew was the final time last week.
“I knew I gave it everything I had,” said Mewhort, who will remain in the Indy area and perhaps get into coaching or scouting. “It’s a bit of a relief knowing I don’t have to wake up every day and try to figure out how to make it through practice and perform at a standard I’ve set for myself.
“I’ll miss the game dearly and the people, but it was time. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.”
He leaves with no regrets.
Well, save for one.
Mewhort wrote in his retirement statement he will “always bleed blue,” a nod to the Colts’ dominant color.
“I probably should have worded that a little differently,” the former Buckeyes captain cracked.
Happy trails, big man.
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