After this dad of four spent two seasons away from the gridiron, he was unexpectedly called out of retirement for just a few games last month. Now he’s headed for the Super Bowl.
He’d dreamed for years of playing in the Super Bowl, but when Latter-day Saint Eric Weddle announced his retirement from professional football in 2020, he knew he had to put that dream to bed. Even though he never played in football’s biggest game during his 13-year NFL career, he didn’t have any regrets. “I've had a great run,” Weddle said when he announced his retirement, according to ESPN. “No regrets, baby.”
Weddle happily embraced life as a retiree, spending time with his four kids—“Just back to being at home and doing the family, kid duty, and getting ready to coach my son’s tackle football team,” he told AP.
But 37-year-old Weddle’s story has taken a few huge turns in the course of the last few weeks. Last month, two players on Weddle’s former Rams team received season-ending injuries, so the team turned to Weddle to join them again—but this time only on their practice squad.
But Weddle ended up playing in the Rams’ next three games, despite the doubts of many who wondered whether he’d be able to perform after two years off the gridiron. But perform he did, even becoming the team’s leading tackler in their victory against the 49ers last month.
Teammate Jalen Ramsay said, “It’s been two years. To come back into a playoff atmosphere and play this well—yeah, this is surprising.”
Now, in the biggest turn of events for Weddle, he’s finally headed to the Super Bowl with the Rams this Sunday.
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“It’s pretty special,” Weddle told AP. “This whole thing has been a whirlwind over the last few weeks, and to be able to be in this moment on the cusp of something that has been missing in my life is pretty fortunate. Definitely humbled by this opportunity and will do everything I can to help this team win it.”
Weddle joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a college sophomore at the University of Utah. His girlfriend at the time, Chanel, introduced him to the Church, and even though the two stopped dating, he was eventually baptized, according to the Baltimore Ravens website. Weddle later reconnected with Chanel and the two were married.
During his professional career, Weddle’s faith was a factor as he considered which teams to accept offers from. In 2016, for example, when he was being recruited by several NFL teams, he created a list of 30 questions to ask recruiters, according to Bleacher Report. Two of those questions were “Are there any LDS members on the team?” and “Are there LDS churches near the team facility?”
“To this day [joining the Church] is the best decision I have ever made, I have never looked back,” Weddle told Deseret News in 2010. “Ultimately I became a better teammate, leader, and better person overall. Understanding why we are here, what we are supposed to be doing, relationships and striving to do more, other than play football. When you get understanding like that and apply it, it works wonders.”
As for the incredible turns of events of the last few weeks that now has his Super Bowl dream coming to fruition, Weddle says he’s “definitely not coming back after this. All the stars had to align for this to happen, and I don’t see that happening ever again.”
For Eric Weddle, such mottos apply not only to how he plays football, but how he lives his life. Weddle's story is about overcoming stereotypes and adversity and accomplishing impossible dreams. It’s about an athlete who surprised his family and friends by joining a church they knew little about and about how his faith in Jesus Christ has continued to bless his life. It's a story about epic wins and devastating losses, confidence and character, taking advantage of opportunities, and respecting the game of football. It’s a story of a man who values his family above all else. It’s about living each day with no excuses and no regrets.