Q&A: Eric Weddle describes his fairytale Super Bowl return to the NFL in his own words

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Eric Weddle celebrates with his family after Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Retirement was going great for Eric Weddle. As Sports Illustrated put it, “He went to church. Slept in. Made breakfast for the family. Packed school lunches. Spent time he could hardly find before with his wife and four children, ages 8 to 14. When the kids went to school, he hit the gym—not as hard as he used to, but still lifting every day and running twice a week.” But then a phone call came that changed everything and gave Weddle the fairytale ending everyone hopes for. Six weeks after that call, Eric Weddle was a Super Bowl champion.

On this week’s All In podcast, Eric Weddle told the story in his own words.

Morgan Jones Pearson: Well let’s talk a little bit about that Super Bowl. You were two years into retirement and were meeting with a local high school about coaching when you got a call asking if you’d want to play in the NFL playoffs, which sounds like something from a Disney movie. Tell me a little bit about that moment and what was going through your mind when you got that phone call?

Eric Weddle: Man, it was definitely a whirlwind of emotions. And like you said, I’d just gotten done interviewing at the local high school to potentially … take over the high school program this upcoming season. And I had just gotten done with that meeting, mind you, I’m happily content with my life. I gave everything to the game. I gave everything to try to be the very best and it was time for me to be done, and I had no regrets. I had no desire to return. I didn’t miss the game at all. I didn’t miss the pain. I didn’t miss the sacrifice, the time. Everything that the job entails. As much as I love playing on Sundays, it got to the point where I just couldn’t keep up both mentally and physically. So two years removed, I started coaching youth football, doing the taxi service, the daily wake the kids up and make them breakfast, make them lunches, drop them off, then you get a little five hour break to do whatever I wanted, I could take a nap, I could go work out if I wanted to. I could, you know watch a show, hang out with my wife. We’ve been looking for this moment for basically 14 years where we finally can have time for ourselves. She held it down and was the rock of our family for so many years, so it was just nice to be able to give back, give my time to kids, give my time to up to my wife. And then my world gets flipped upside down when I get a call asking if I could give them 15 to 20 snaps Monday night. This was Tuesday afternoon, so we’re talking six days from now.

And I literally laugh when Raheem called me. He’s the defensive coordinator. And I laughed out loud. I said, “Is this some kind of joke or something? You know, I haven’t played football in two years. I haven’t been working out. I’m not the guy that was on the field two years ago. Like I’m 182 pounds. I’m physically not where you would expect to be to go play football.” And he’s like, “Nah, man.” He’s like, “We got a great plan. I think you can do it. You can learn the system easily. We just need someone back there to get the guys in position and bring some stability back there.” I said, “Raheem, am I seriously the best option you guys got right now?” And he’s like, “Pretty much.” So we talked for like, maybe 15 minutes. And I just was like, this isn’t real. This is some sick joke that they’re playing on me. And you know in life there are opportunities that come about whether you’re ready for them or not. And I just kept circling back to this is an opportunity of a lifetime, this is an opportunity that I get to live out my dream once again. And am I ready? Of course not. Should I do it? Absolutely not. But … I live life to the fullest. I love life. I love living everything that it entails, the ups and downs, the adversity, the low times. I love it. And what would I be if I preach that to my kids to live each day like it’s your last, [that] when something happens or opportunity comes, you just take it and live with what happens, right?

So many times we’re afraid to take that leap of faith because of what someone may say or what someone may think. And at the end of the day, I kept thinking about that, how can I look anybody in the face if I don’t take this chance and see what happens. And so long story short, I make that decision after a few phone calls and talking to [my wife] Chanel and talking to some other people that I’m close with and kind of wrapping your head around trying to go back and play in the NFL and once you commit to something, I’m all in and who would have thought six weeks later, I’m a Super Bowl champ.

Morgan Jones Pearson: It’s amazing. Well, and I think it’s important to know [that] you talk about not being entirely ready for that opportunity. And who would be after two years of retirement. But also when the defensive coordinator called you they were like, “Are you fat?” And you were like, “No.” And I think there’s something important to note there in terms of like, you weren’t not ready. And so the idea of like being ready when those opportunities come even like you said, if you’re not all the way ready, but being being in a position to answer that call, I think is a really cool part of that story.

Eric Weddle: Yeah, I mean, you’re 100 percent right, like, I work out now so my body feels better. So … I’m a little more patient with my kids, and I’m not in so much pain. And I play basketball once a week because I love hooping with my friends and just trying to be a little kid again. So you never know why you do certain things right? Like a month prior, I started changing my workouts to just try to get a little bit more explosive on the basketball court and just try to get in a little bit better shape. And in looking in hindsight, like honestly, doing those things a month prior gave me the confidence to to say yes, and try to come back and make this dream come alive again. And you know, there’s always a saying you got to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready. And it’s a perfect example in life of are you ready to attack the day? Are you ready for the crazy things that may happen that you may not know about? You know, every day we wake up, we don’t know how the day’s gonna be? It could be our last day here. We don’t know. So are you ready? Are you ready for those challenges? Are you strategically putting yourself in the best spot to be successful in that day—mind, body, and spiritually? This is a crazy world. And for me, it was something that gave me the confidence that I could take this chance and make the most of it. And really the belief when you hear it from your wife, I was going back and forth. I had a legacy. I had a standard of football that I played with. I could easily have made a fool of myself, and that would be the lasting impression in millions of people’s minds—that this guy’s made a fool of himself. And going back, talking to friends, talking to more coaches [helped, but] the last thing that made me just go all in was my wife. She’s been my biggest supporter, my biggest believer, and she has also humbled me and reminded me what my standards are and reminded me what life is all about—this crazy life, crazy world—and to understand that, “Hey, as much as you want to be the best football player ever, you have an even greater responsibility of being the best husband and best father to your kids.” Without her by my side for my entire career, there’s no way it would have been what it ended up being. And when she says, “Babe, if anyone can do it, you can.” It’s just like solidified, "You’re dang right, babe, like, I can do this, I could do anything I put my mind to." And I don’t know if it all would’ve worked out if she [hadn’t] given me that little nudge that I needed in the moment.

Morgan Jones Pearson: You mentioned five weeks, six weeks later, you are a Super Bowl champion. From the outside looking in, it looks like an absolute fairytale. I’m sure when you’re the one out there putting in the work, it probably doesn’t feel like “Wow, that just happened.” But what did it feel like? And what did it mean to you, after you’ve put so many years into it, to then have that kind of closure?

Eric Weddle: Well, it was just like a lifelong goal of why we play sports. That’s why you play especially team sports—to win a championship, to be the very best. You do things individually along the way. But it’s always clouded when you have success as an individual, but your team stinks. Like it’s just not worth it in the long run, you’d much rather have a team success than the individual accolades that come with it. To have this crazy moment, this lifelong opportunity come about, and to make the most of it, and have a hand in the ultimate goal, the ultimate dream when that dream was dead for me two years ago. When I retired, it was never a possibility to even think about winning the Super Bowl or be a part of a team that had a chance. You know, I was just the retired has-been cheering on my squads each Sunday and Monday and Thursday. Any chance I could help out other guys and coaches during that time I was fine with, but to have that, it’s just surreal. [I was] grateful and humbled to even have that chance to be thought of. And then you go back to everything that’s happened over the course of my career [that] led to this decision of trying to bring me back. I mean, a lot of who I am is derived from my parents raising me the right way, but having the gospel and having the Church in my life and the way I tried to treat people, the way I have a standard and try to hold that. Now I’m not perfect. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. And that’s why the Savior is so beloved and cherished in my life for His Atonement and the things that we can overcome in life. And if I hadn’t been that way throughout my career, these coaches and players wouldn’t even have thought twice by asking me to come back. Knowing that if anyone could do it, probably Eric could. He’d be crazy enough to even think about it. So it’s all correlated with trying to do right and trying to treat people with love and kindness and that good things happen to good people. And I try my best to do those things. And to have it circle back, to have a hand and have an actual prominent role in winning the Super Bowl for the Rams. It’s something that I’ll never forget. And there are reasons why those things happen: because you tried to do things the right way.

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