Pat McAfee’s sudden retirement after the 2016 season shocked the NFL world.
A star punter who played eight seasons for the Colts, McAfee retired a few months before he turned 30 years old. If McAfee stayed healthy, he could have easily continued punting for another decade.
What made McAfee leave his job with the Indianapolis Colts to pursue a media career with Barstool Sports? Let’s take a look back at his decision.
Pat McAfee was an excellent punter for the Indianapolis Colts
A seventh-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, Pat McAfee had a solid eight seasons in the NFL.
At times, McAfee was more than solid, making two Pro Bowls and earning All-Pro honors after the 2014 season. McAfee averaged 46.4 yards per punt with the Colts and drilled 53.1% of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
What made McAfee so fun to watch, though, was the energy he brought on special teams. McAfee wasn’t the average punter who kicked the ball and let his gunners do the work.
McAfee sprinted downfield and put himself at risk to deliver bone-crunching tackles.
The NFL was suspicious of McAfee and often sent him random drug tests. One such test came in August 2016 after McAfee drilled a 67-yard punt in a preseason game against the Bills.
McAfee prematurely retired in 2017 to join Barstool Sports
Pat McAfee played in a Super Bowl as a rookie. Things weren’t going so well for the Colts in his final two seasons.
Injuries to quarterback Andrew Luck contributed to Indianapolis missing the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. McAfee remained a bright spot, on and off the field, for a disappointing Colts team.
McAfee easily could have kept playing for another decade if he stayed healthy. His teammate, legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri, had just completed his 21st season after the 2016 campaign.
That made McAfee’s announcement in February 2017 so surprising. Not only was McAfee retiring, but he intended to join Barstool Sports immediately.
What made Pat McAfee hang up his cleats so early?
Pat McAfee’s retirement had nothing to do with injuries or the Colts’ downward trend.
In a September 2018 podcast, McAfee explained he had an ugly fight with then-Colts general manager Ryan Grigson midway through the 2016 season. After that argument, McAfee decided that would be his final year in the NFL.
So what happened? McAfee posted a picture of the Colts’ equipment room on Instagram and Grigson wasn’t pleased.
McAfee recalled Grigson calling him into his office and threatening to fine him a game check.
The real kicker, McAfee said, came when Grigson told him that posts like McAfee’s were why the Colts had recently lost to the Steelers. McAfee took extreme issue with Grigson’s comments.
“I said, ‘You paid a guy [Luck] $140 million and you can’t keep him healthy. Your offensive line’s swiss cheese. He’s blown out his shoulder three times, and you’re worried about this [expletive]?’ He goes, ‘What did you just say to me?’ I go, ‘Oh yeah, I’m best in the game at what I do. I wish you would do the same.’
Grigson fined McAfee, who cursed the general manager and then-Colts coach Chuck Pagano out.
McAfee got the last laugh. Indianapolis fired Grigson in January 2017, leading to McAfee tweeting, “Thank God.”
McAfee worked at Barstool Sports from February 2017 through August 2018. He now appears on ESPN’s college football coverage and hosts a show on DAZN.