Julius Thomas retiring from NFL to pursue doctorate in psychology

Free-agent tight end Julius Thomas is ready to retire from the NFL. 

He announced his decision Friday in an emotional letter published on the Players’ Tribune, while also revealing he is planning to go back to school in order to pursue his doctorate in psychology. He wrote in the piece he wants to study “the effects of contact sports on brain trauma and neurobehavioral performance.”

“I’m ready to admit that I’m OK with giving up the identity of ‘Julius the football player.’ I’m OK with not being recognized as an NFL athlete—because I’m more than that,” Thomas wrote. “I have stepped out of my identity before, and I will continue to do it again and again throughout life.

“I believe helping others is what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. Hopefully I can help by encouraging more of my peers to connect with who they are outside of the game. If ultimately that’s what I’m remembered for, I’d be very thankful.”

Thomas shared some of his personal struggles that lead to his decision and wrote he wants to study therapy to help people heal from their emotional and mental pain.

“I realized that no matter my material success, I had much work to do internally. I could no longer play to the social ideal of the happy athlete millionaire. I had to take an honest look at who I was, or as Jung would say, dive into my ‘shadow.’ To realize that life is tough emotionally on all of us. That we can’t grow until we have healed from the traumas of our pasts.”

Thomas, selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the Broncos, spent last season with the Dolphins after playing two years with the Jaguars and four seasons with Denver.

Thomas signed a five-year contract with Jacksonville in 2015, but was traded to the Dolphins after just two seasons.

He retires with 226 career receptions for 2,406 yards and 36 touchdowns.