Are the NFL's Classiest Players Aging Out?

Contrary to what angry internet commentators may tell you in a #BoycottNFL fervor, the number of truly despicable NFL players and anthem protesters is dwindling at a rapid pace.

It’s a big reason why NFL viewership is up (even if, technically, fewer people watched the NFL this year).

But on the flip side, while divisive NFL players seem to be on the decline, some of the classier NFL players in the league seem to be disappearing, too.

The angrier corners of the internet will never want to hear it, but there are some truly good and classy people in the NFL to counterbalance some of the less savory individuals.

The problem is that those classier NFL players all seem to of a certain age group and there are no immediate replacements in the pipeline.

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Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt is only 29 and has mostly dispelled retirement chatter, but a litany of major injuries has put the eldest Watt brother closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it.

And make no mistake, Watt is a true class act. When he’s not helping the families of first responders, he’s raising money for those in need. Whenever he decides to hang his cleats up, he will be missed.

Arizona Cardinals superstar Larry Fitzgerald and New Orleans Saints superstar Drew Brees are 35 and 39, respectively, and the specter of retirement has become an annual conversation for them in recent years.

Both are two of the classiest individuals in the NFL.

Even a strong role model like Denver Broncos journeyman quarterback Case Keenum, who wears his strong Christian faith on his sleeve (or his cleats), is 30 years old and would hardly be described by anyone as the “future” of the league.

But while those players are approaching the latter parts of their respective careers, there are no clear-cut youngsters waiting in the pipeline to replace them as moral bastions of the league.

At only 23, Patrick Mahomes II, the Kansas City Chiefs superstar and likely NFL MVP, could be a candidate, but he’s got a long way to go yet.

And outside of Mahomes, the NFL’s younger class of stars aren’t quite echoing their predecessors.

Baker Mayfield is an exciting sparkplug of a quarterback and might finally reverse the fortunes of the Cleveland Browns, but he’s hardly a role model. Between lewd gestures and the occasional bout of petulance, he could stand to take a page or two out of Drew Brees’ book.

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Odell Beckham Jr. and Le’Veon Bell could very well be the best receiver and running back in football, respectively, but neither are exactly role models. Beckham Jr. is as likely to throw a fit as he is to make a spectacular reception, and Bell is literally pouting his way off of his current team.

To be fair, many of these guys are young and could mature into class acts. By that same token, however, players like Brees and Fitzgerald exhibited a maturity and professionalism beyond their years when they first broke into the league.

Maybe I’m just an old man yelling at a cloud. But this is a fascinating issue to me that isn’t be discussed nearly enough.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than two years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than two years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
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