As NFL training camps opened last week you didn’t find Matt Leinart strapping on pads.
The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner and Arizona Cardinals first-round draft pick two years later strolled around Pac-12 Football Media Days in Burbank, CA ready for the next chapter of analyzing football, instead of playing it.
“I’ve signed my paperwork…I’m done,” the former USC star and much-maligned Cardinal told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat with a broad smile in a sit down interview Friday. “I wanted to move on…it’s been a really easy transition.”
Leinart is going back to school so-to-speak, double-dipping as both a FOX and Pac-12 Network college football analyst this fall. This will be his second season with the FOX family on Saturdays. He’ll be on the set of “Inside the Pac-12,” the conference network’s mid-week show.
His seven-year career which spanned from 2006-13 included four teams (Cardinals, Texans, Raiders, Bills). He threw for just over 4,000 yards in the NFL with 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Leinart’s passer rating was a paltry 70.2.
“Everyone has a different journey,” he openly explained to Cesmat. “Eventually there comes a point where, ‘how much is too much? Why do I keep putting myself through this?’…I was just like, ‘I’m not going to be bummed if no teams call.'”
The 6’5, 225-pounder who landed in former Cards’ coach Ken Whisenhunt’s dog house and never got out, losing the starting job in 2010 to Derek Anderson, said two broken collar bones shattered his confidence and ultimately his love of playing the game.
“It’s a mental grind,” Leinart said. “I just didn’t want to do that anymore.”
What he did want to do is spend more time with his young son Cole, as well as play more basketball and beach volleyball. The 32-year-old also trains a high school quarterback.
Although excited for his post-playing career, Leinart appreciated many aspects of his NFL tenure and will be speaking to future draft prospects at USC about his highs and lows of the league in the coming weeks.
“The NFL is great,” he said. “Every kid dreams of playing that. I have a different feeling, a different experience. But…it gave me a blessing. I love the game. It’s just…it can get you if you’re not careful.”