Philadelphia Eagles News

Darren Sproles: Eagles fans, I gave you all I had

It's hard to put in words the emotion I will feel when I walk out of the tunnel one last time for a regular-season game at Lincoln Financial Field. One last time with my teammates and coaches, and one last time in front of the fans. Trust me, I believe in this group and I know that we still have a nice run left in us this year. We've done it before and we can do it again. But as I stand down there on Sunday, I will definitely be thinking about all of the special memories I have made over the last 15 years, and especially the last six here in Philadelphia.

To Eagles fans everywhere, I want to thank you for the way you supported me every single day. I could feel it. You made my time here special. I remember when I was first traded to the Eagles. It was a shock because it came out of the blue, but it turned into a blessing. I get chills thinking about all of the amazing memories from my time here. Playing at our stadium is like playing in front of your family.

I owe so much to the game of football and I gave it all I had in return. I gave it everything I had on every play. I rode it until the wheels fell off. That's the way I played and that's the way I practiced. When I re-signed with the Eagles back in July, I knew it was going to be my last season, and now my body is telling me it's time to step away from the game. It's time to call it a career. So when the season comes to an end, I'm going to officially retire from the National Football League. But I wanted to announce it today so that we can appreciate the moment together on Sunday.

Spending the past month on Injured Reserve has been hard. I want to be out there with my guys. But I've had the chance to spend a lot of time with my family and I'm at peace with this decision. My kids are kind of sad that my career is coming to an end because they told me that they love to see me play. They inspired me. They kept me going. I'm proud that they were able to see me play at a high level because I wanted to show my kids that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to, as long as you are willing to work hard for it. There's no quit, especially when times get tough and rocky.

I want to thank Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman for bringing me here and allowing me to be a part of such a first-class organization. Doug Pederson, I could write an entire story on Doug alone. The main thing is that I just want to thank Doug for being Doug. He never changed. We love playing for him. I just want to thank him for coming to Philly and changing the culture.

Duce, he is family to me. We're going to be close for a long time, way after football is over. He sees the game through a player's eyes. He brings so much knowledge and passion to the game. Every time I talk with him, I want to take notes because he is always teaching me, someone who has played for 15 years, something new. I really hope that he gets a chance to be a head coach one day in the NFL.

I already miss the time with my brothers in the running back room. When one of us is out there making plays, it makes the whole room look good. I love it. I have had so many great teammates and coaches over the years, it would be impossible to name everybody, but I appreciate everything I have learned from them about the game of football and about life. That is what I am going to miss the most, spending time with my brothers and making each other better.

My favorite memory from my career is the Parade of Champions down Broad Street. Seeing how this entire city, and it sure looked like the entire city was there, came together to rally behind this team is something that inspires you to want to go out and bring it home each and every year.

I remember my first game at the Linc in 2014 against the Jaguars. Late in the first quarter, I went back to return a punt and decided to call for a fair catch. There was a little bit of room, so after I caught it, I heard it from the fans. We were down 14-0 early, so I understood, but I will tell you from that moment forward, I never wanted to fair catch a ball again. And that's a tribute to you, Eagles fans.

I made the Pro Bowl three times in my career and they all came after I arrived in Philadelphia. Coach Fipp was able to show me things as a punt returner that helped me get to the Pro Bowl and I thank you for that.

Malcolm, we came together from New Orleans, and you never changed. You are amazing as a player, but you're an even better person, and I thank you for everything you've done for me.

Looking back on my career, I think about the time I stood on the stage inside the RCA Dome getting measured for coaches and scouts at the 2005 NFL Scouting Combine. When my height and weight were announced, I could hear laughing from the audience. I've always been short, it's not the first time I've been made fun of for it, but I started worrying that I might not get picked because of my size. I just needed one team to take a chance on me and I'm thankful for the Chargers.

I'm proud that I was able to prove my doubters wrong. They told me that I wouldn't make it past a year in the NFL. Fifteen years later, I'm fifth all time in NFL history in career all-purpose yards. Look at the names who are above me on that list: Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith. To be part of such an outstanding group is an incredible honor. But it also goes to show that no matter what people say about you, you can still achieve great things if you believe in yourself and put in the work.

My mother, Annette, passed away on April 25, 2004. I think about her and miss her every day. She always told me two things: Remain humble and always stay true to yourself. I've carried those words with me to this day. I know she's looking down on me and I hope she is proud of what I've accomplished.

My father, Larry, taught me how to have self-confidence. Thank you, dad, for being there for me as well as pushing me to be my best. You taught me that size doesn't mean anything, that I've got to work harder than the next person.

To Coach Gene Wier, who guided me at Olathe North High School, I learned to practice hard because of you. Thank you. Every time you touched the ball in practice, you scored, and that's what I've been doing ever since. That's the way that we practiced. That's just the way I work. To me, there's no such thing as a "walkthrough."

Lastly, to my wife, Michel, you are my rock. You mean the world to me. You've always had my back. Thank you. Thank you for holding down the fort at home while I was playing or practicing or watching film. You let me focus on football while you took care of everything at home.

It's now time to return the favor.

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