Colts punter Pat McAfee shockingly retires from football: 'I want to turn my focus elsewhere'

Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee (1) walks off the field before the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)
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HOUSTON (WTHR) — Pat McAfee, the Colts' Pro Bowl punter, announced tonight he is retiring from the NFL and joining the upstart sports-content producer, Barstool Sports. He made the announcement just before 12:30 a.m. Eastern on the show Barstool Rundown on Comedy Central.

He said he is quitting for two reasons: One, he is looking at his third knee surgery in four years, and will need additional surgeries down the road. Two, he got an offer from Barstool Sports, which produces sports content on the web and elsewhere and is targeted toward young males.

"It was a very difficult decision – very," McAfee told WTHR.com earlier this week. "But whenever you're a creative person, whenever you can make somebody laugh, that's real fulfillment. You're making somebody's day better and this is giving me that (opportunity). It was a really tough choice but I'm really, really excited about the future."

McAfee will remain in Indianapolis, setting up his own headquarters downtown, where he will do podcasts, TV shows and "whatever the hell I want to do." He will also continue to pursue his love of standup comedy, and will maintain his work in various philanthropic efforts. Barstool wanted McAfee to move to New York, but he insisted the only way he would join them was if he could remain in Indy. "This is where I'm going to stay and make my home," he said.

McAfee's retirement will leave the Colts with a gaping hole at punter, and will force new general manager Chris Ballard to pursue a replacement for the two-time Pro Bowler either through the NFL draft or free agency. The Colts are aware of McAfee's retirement; he had a nearly two-hour conversation with team owner Jim Irsay Monday before he left Indy to go to Houston for Super Bowl week. It's safe to assume the rest of the organization is aware of his intentions as well.

Irsay tried to convince McAfee to remain with the team, even if it's just another year, but McAfee was committed to walking away from the last two years of a five-year, $14.5 million contract and walking into retirement and this new opportunity.

"I'm sure people are going to think I'm nuts," McAfee said. "But once they realize that I'm getting a chance to really follow something I'm passionate about…everybody has their own life. I was really lucky to play in the NFL, play for the Colts and get a chance to come to this city, which is where I'm going to make my home for the rest of my life. I know people will think that (I'm nuts) because I was lucky to have one of the best jobs in the world, but at some point, a next chapter was going to come and this one just came a little earlier with an incredible opportunity. The NFL, even for punters, can't last forever. Who knows what happens? If I have to get another surgery and another and another…This opportunity popped up and I took it."

McAfee has toyed with the idea of retiring for some time now, telling me in a recent podcast he thought long and hard last offseason about leaving the game and pursuing opportunities in comedy and media. But given the state of his knees and the opportunity presented by Barstool Sports, McAfee thought the time was right.

He was asked if he nearly changed his mind when Ryan Grigson, the Colts former general manager, was fired. McAfee and Grigson did not get along. At all.

"My dad asked me the same question," McAfee said. "And no, I did not. For me, no matter whether I got along with the guy who was making the decision or not, it was my job to focus and be great. It's basically the 100 percent focus on punting the ball that I don't want to have anymore. I just want to make the world a happier place, so it didn’t really matter who the boss was."

McAfee, a 29-year-old Plum, Pa. native, came to Indianapolis in 2009 as a seventh-round draft pick out of West Virginia University. He has always been extremely visible both in the media and in philanthropic circles, especially since his 2010 arrest for public intoxication. After that incident – he laughingly calls it "an alleged" incident – McAfee straightened up and dove headlong into various civic ventures. He also has sold out several venues across the state with his stand-up comedy.

He was asked if he might pull a Brett Favre and un-retire at some point.

"Nope," he said. "I'm retired. I'm done."

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