Antonio Garay is a former NFL nose tackle who spent nine seasons in the league playing for three different teams in the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers. As we’ve continued to learn, playing football at the highest level takes a huge toll on your body and often on your mind. The same is true for Garay who feels the toll of his days in the NFL every day.
“When you’re playing, everyone’s telling you that, that’s how your body is supposed to feel. All the things that you’re feeling all the things that you’re going through, that’s normal. That’s the life of a football player,” said Garay on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench show. “My first game with the Chargers, I remember after my first game I just had a good game and everyone was like ‘how do you feel?’ And I said I felt alright and just throw some ice on it. Being an NFL nose tackle is like being in seventeen car accidents. I just went through it thinking that this was normal and then since I’ve been done–I thought that when I was done everything would just go back to how it used to be, but it doesn’t.”
Since retiring from the game, Garay has reached out to former players to try and understand if they’re going through the same pains and issues that he is after playing. He says he’s also reached out to his friends that are still in the league to try and warn them about what’s awaiting them once they do decide to hang it up.
“I think my first year out of the game it was harder for me, but there’s guys that I have a lot of respect for, guys that are my friends that I’ve called up just to let them know because I had no idea what I was getting myself into or what was going to happen post-football,” said Garay. “I’ve started to call guys up. Once you’re out, I think that’s kind of the natural–to try and find out what’s going on with you and then you try to educate your old friends.”
While there are plenty of pains leftover from his playing career, Garay does still have an affinity for one of the teams he played for more so than others: the Chargers. Though he wasn’t drafted by the team, he spent four seasons with the team and had some of the best year’s of his career there.
This offseason, the team announced that they would be moving to Los Angeles to become tenants in the Rams new stadium that will be finished in 2019. Chargers fans were devastated by the news that their team would be leaving town after 55 seasons in San Diego. Garay understands their hurt and feels the same way.
“As a player there, I feel bad for the fans,” said Garay. “My success, a lot of the stuff that I accomplished in San Diego was because of the fans. They supported me all the way. I support them in the way they feel about the Chargers just basically getting up and leaving. The only team that did it a little bit faster was the Cleveland Browns. I think it’s terrible. The San Diego Chargers should always be in San Diego, they shouldn’t be in LA. Without talking to Spanos or anyone over there, they made a business decision. They didn’t make a decision based off of the countless people, the time, the dedication that they put into the Chargers.”
As for how the team will do in LA, many believe the Chargers will struggle as they have little to no existing fan base within the city. Garay however, thinks they will be plenty successful. Not because of the fans, but rather, because of the corporations that will be jockeying to buy seats in the new stadium.
“Absolutely because it’s the corporation money that they’re going to get,” said Garay. “It’s knowing that every week, you’re not just relying on an average guy grinding it out every day making money for him and his family and then also supporting season tickets. Instead, you have corporations that have expendable income they’re buying it. That’s what you want, they’re buying tickets at all times and you’re always sold out. It’s unfortunate for the common fan that wants to be there all the time, the people that, through the blackouts of the games and everything else, they still bought Chargers merchandise.”