Garrett McIntyre, former pro football player

photo by lisa baetz

When the New York Jets cut former linebacker Garrett McIntyre in August 2014, he faced the same dilemma every football player eventually encounters. McIntyre could have returned to what he did for nearly a decade. He could have kept going to NFL workouts and playing arena and Canadian football. This strategy led him to 42 games and 5.5 sacks with the Jets from 2011 to 2013. But in 2014, McIntyre decided to retire. SN&R caught up recently with 31-year-old McIntyre, who lives in Folsom with a wife and twin daughters, to chat about intense jobs, concussions and youth football.

This time of year, is there ever a part of you that’s like, “Man, I could go back, I could do this again?”

Sometimes. Mentally, yes. Physically, probably not. It’s just the wear and tear that it does, especially at the linebacker position and playing special teams. And my game was a physical game. I wasn’t like a speed, finesse player. I was like an old-school, throw my head into you, like that kind of guy. That’s who I was, and that takes a toll on you over the years.

I’ve heard when you’re in the NFL, when you’re in the middle of a season, you just never feel 100 percent the entire year.


Is it weird to go through entire years and feel pretty good?

It is. I have, like, good days and bad days. I still enjoy working out, and I’m really into fitness. I have a gym in my house. There’s days where I’m like, “Oh man, I feel good,” or weeks where I feel good. Then I’ll get these ruts where I’m like, “Oh man, I’m feeling like I’m overdoing it, or I’m not doing something right,” to where my body’s hurting me, and I’m getting these aches and pains I used to feel. Really, what I’ve learned over the years is now if I don’t move, so if I don’t stay active, I hurt.

With the movie Concussion last fall, there’s been a lot of focus of the health risks with the NFL. What’s your take?

I haven’t seen the movie. I kind of don’t want to watch it. I think it’s very real. I think it’s there. I think that I don’t know what the future has for me and for my brain. I hope that it’s good, but at this point, there’s nothing I can do for the years of football that I played. In my career, I had two major concussions: one in the NFL, my rookie season, my first season with the Jets; and I had one in high school. So I didn’t have a lot of major concussions. But did I get my bell rung a lot of times? Yes. Like, every single week. … From what I hear—and I’ve read articles, some sad articles about former players that have been diagnosed with [the brain disease] CTE and kind of the toll that it takes on them early, in their 50s, late 40s—it’s scary to think that that’s there and that’s a possibility. I’m hoping that the NFL continues pump money into … research about the brain and keep funding. It’s no secret anymore.

Would you let your kids play football?

Luckily, I have two girls. I have twin daughters that are almost 3. … If I had a boy, and he wanted to play football, I think I’d have to let him play football. But I would let him know the risks that are involved. Did I know the risks? I did. You know that it’s a physical game, and there’s 100 percent injury rate. And you know at some point, you’re gonna get hurt. Did I know all the stuff about the brain injuries back when I was coming out of college? I didn’t. … But football, besides the head injuries, has taught me so much about myself and about being a man and carrying myself as a good person. The things that football teaches you, that’s why it’d be so hard to tell my son, “Don’t play.”

What do you do for money now?

I saved money, first of all. I knew that my career was going to be short. I knew that I wasn’t going to make a whole lot of money. So I saved a lot of my money. I’ve invested it in some certain things, some real estate stuff, I have some stuff in the market. Currently, I am trying to get hired as a paramedic firefighter. … I realized when I was out of football for a year how much I missed being a part of a team and the camaraderie that comes with that. A couple of my buddies are firefighters, and I did some ride-alongs with them. I was like, “Holy cow, this is like as close as being in a team as I could get to football.”

It seems like two really high-octane, stressful professions. It’s almost like you’re trading one for another.

I know, and it’s crazy to know it. But it’s like you get so used to those high-stress situations playing football that it’s like you almost need that.