Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach walks off the University of Phoenix Stadium field with his son, Ryan, after Leach's final home game of his career, the Cards' Wild Card victory over Green Bay.
Mike Leach was good at his job.
The veteran long snapper didn't make mistakes. He caused havoc in coverage, even as his age crept higher and higher. When his body started breaking down the last few seasons, Leach made sure it didn't cause him to miss any games.
There was always the threat the team might want to get younger and cheaper, but Leach was too good to lose his job. Wednesday morning, Leach made sure his NFL career ended by his own choosing, posting his retirement announcement on Twitter after 16 seasons.
"Every journey, no matter how great, must eventually come to an end," Leach, 39, wrote. "Today, I've reached
the end of my journey as a player in the National Football League. It is rare in our profession that a player gets to choose when it's over and go out on his terms. I am making that choice before waning abilities – or worse, an injury – make it for me.
"I know I'll miss it; nothing can replace the feeling of running onto an NFL field on game day or celebrating with your teammates after a big win. But I'm excited for whatever is to come next."
Leach, along with his wife Julie, has plenty of things to do already. The Leachs recently created a line of stuffed animals to help toilet train children called Potty Pals. They also frequently do charity work, most notably regular visits to Phoenix Childrens Hospital to spend time with the kids that must stay there. (In fact, part of the proceeds from Potty Pals go to PCH.) Leach was named the Cardinals' Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2010.
Leach wasn't the most well known Cardinal. His job only had him on the field a handful of snaps per game. But he never made mistakes, and he finished his career with an active streak of 216 straight games played, the second-longest active streak to Houston punter Shane Lechler (222). He played in 235 games total with Tennessee, Denver and Arizona after coming out of William and Mary as a tight end.
The Cardinals signed Leach in 2009, after he was released by Denver. He played long enough that his children, son Ryan and daughter Madeline, are old enough to understand what Dad did for a living.
"That's the best part of football for me now, game days and being able to see my son and daughter in the stands, wearing jerseys with my name and number," Leach said this past offseason. "My son has a good knowledge of the game. It's fun to talk to him about this sack or that play."
Leach thanked his wife in his retirement statement, as well as all three of his former teams and the Cardinals' fans as well, promising he would continue to root for the team he is now leaving.
"There is a pride that creeps in that I have found a way to survive this long," Leach said in June. "You feel too good, that's when you get run out of this league, so I've been nervous for going on 16 years in this league now. I never feel like I have a spot, that I have to earn it. I do everything I could to not mess that up."
Leach doesn't have to worry about that anymore.
Images of the veteran Cardinals long snapper who retired on Wednesday