Doug Baldwin started playing football at age six in Pee Wee League. He made it all the way to the NFL. But this fall, after 25 years of catching pigskin, he left the game behind.
For eight years, Baldwin was a Seattle Seahawks wide receiver. He finished with 493 receptions for 6,563 yards. He made 49 regular-season touchdowns. Baldwin was instrumental in Seattle’s championship run earlier this decade.
But Baldwin took lots of hits. He struggled with injuries and underwent surgeries on his groin, shoulder, and knee. This spring, Seattle released him. That’s when Baldwin decided to begin the next phase of his life.
“What it comes down to is, ‘Can my body do this and me still have a resemblance of a quality of life afterward?’” Baldwin asked. (See Andrew Luck’s similar statements at teen.wng.org/node/5571)
The decision wasn’t easy—or quick. Baldwin says he’s been pondering the idea of “invincibility” and life after football since year two of his eight-year professional career. Eventually, Baldwin believes everyone “come[s] to grips with the reality of being mortal and knowing that this is all going to come to an end.”
Baldwin’s insights are spot-on: Everyone dies. (Hebrews 9:27) Only biblical love in God’s eternal kingdom lasts. (1 Peter 1:22-24) That knowledge can change how we live out our days, making us love more, pray more, and work well. (John 9:4)
Matt Arnold, a pastor in Baldwin’s hometown of Pensacola, Florida, describes Baldwin as having “a heart for Jesus, a heart for people, and a heart for football.” Baldwin says he hopes “to change the world in a positive way.” One of his first projects post-NFL is spearheading construction of a community center in a Seattle suburb. Baldwin donated $1 million toward the project with the goal of raising another $5 million.
During his rookie season, Baldwin lived near the proposed center. The area reminded him of Pensacola—except for the lack of a gathering place for youth.
“This project is a personal passion,” Baldwin says. “It’s very similar to a facility and program where I grew up.” He calls that youth center his “second home,” saying it provided “people that genuinely cared about me not only as a student and an athlete, but . . . a well-rounded human being.”
Baldwin will miss the team camaraderie. But he says, “Is this what is best for me and my family long term? And in some cases, playing football or staying at a job is not.”
Baldwin says he may also attempt more education or even a run for U.S. Congress.