INDIANAPOLIS — It was a decision Jack Mewhort was considering for the better part of four months.
Back in April, Mewhort called his father, Don, to tell him he was considering retiring from the National Football League.
“He said, ‘Well you’ve gotta be sure you don’t have any regrets,’” Jack said.
That made sense, Mewhort thought. After all, it was the Indianapolis Colts that initially provided him his dream of playing in the NFL. And it was the Colts who were willing to take a chance on him as a free agent earlier in the offseason, despite the fact he likely couldn’t have passed a physical at the time for any other team.
So Mewhort forged on, committing to a new diet and nutrition plan and working his way through the offseason program and then the first few days of training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.
With an injury to Anthony Castonzo, Mewhort even earned some early reps with the first team at left tackle — a sign that the Colts’ new staff under first-year head coach Frank Reich had an obvious trust in the fifth-year veteran.
But as the physicality increased and the days got longer, Mewhort reached his final decision. On Aug. 1, he formally announced his decision to retire.
And, after heeding his father’s advice, Mewhort knew he was leaving the game he loved with no regrets.
“My No. 1 thing has always been that I want to do my part for the team. I’ve always loved the guys I’ve played with — loved the offensive line and going out there and looking to my left and my right and caring about those guys,” Mewhort told his close friend and former teammate Joe Reitz on Tuesday in an interview for Colts.com. “I got to a point where I wasn’t going to be able to uphold my end of the bargain for those guys next to me, and I didn’t want to go out there and not be able to do that — not help the team.”
Outside of the Colts’ facility, Mewhort’s decision to retire was a surprising development for a once-promising lineman who turns just 27 years old at the end of the month.
A second-round pick out of Ohio State back in 2014, Mewhort was rated as one of the top up-and-coming interior offensive linemen in the NFL his first two seasons, when he started a combined 30 games, including three additional postseason contests.
But Mewhort just couldn’t escape the injury bug. He played almost an entire season with a torn tricep, and then spent the better part of the last two years dealing with multiple knee injuries — and the surgeries, recovery and rehab work that go with them.
As a result, Mewhort would make just 15 combined starts the last two seasons. He started 10 games in 2016 before being placed on Injured Reserve, and made just five starts last season before reaching the same fate.
Heading into this offseason — his first as an unrestricted free agent — Mewhort still wanted to see if he could play, but doubted he’d have many suitors. But he ultimately met with Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who was willing to sign Mewhort to a one-year deal and give him the opportunity to compete for a job on the 53-man roster once again.
And by the time he walked off the practice field for the final time in his NFL career a few months later, Mewhort said he “almost had a smile on my face because I knew I had nothing left to give.”
“I wanted to give it a try and leave everything out there, and I had people around me that gave me that opportunity — (Director of Sports Performance) Rusty Jones, and Chris Ballard giving me the opportunity to come back, obviously the Irsays," Mewhort said. "I wanted to ride it out as long as I could and really make sure that I was done.”
Ballard commended Mewhort for giving the organization "everything he had in his four seasons with the team."
“He fought through injuries and played through pain," Ballard said in a release. "Jack is a selfless player who always carried a team-first mentality. He is revered among his coaches, teammates and staff and his leadership will be missed in the locker room. We’re appreciative of Jack’s dedication to the Colts and we wish him the best moving forward.”
And even though Reich had only spent the better part of a few months with Mewhort, it didn’t take long at all for him to realize that he was the type of player he wanted on his team.
“Jack is a kind of guy – he’s a Colt (with) that toughness, that mentality, the high character,” Reich said. “(It’s) just great for him that he has come to peace about that decision, and we certainly appreciate his contribution and he is another guy who will always be welcomed back in the locker room and on this field.”
So what’s next for Mewhort? Well, like a lot of retired NFL offensive linemen, he hopes to shed a good amount of the weight he’s had to keep on over the years. And although he doesn’t immediately talk about his career options, he says he’s going to stay in Indianapolis.
“Whatever I’m doing I want to be happy. And I believe if you’re happy then you can find success,” Mewhort said. “And my work ethic is always something that’s carried me, and no matter what I’m doing I’m gonna work my butt off at it. I love the city of Indianapolis; I’m gonna stick around here. I believe it’s a great place to live and raise a family. So, like I said, whatever it is I just want to be happy.
“I haven’t looked back,” Mewhort continued. “Obviously I love the game — I’ll always have a relationship with it — but I’m at peace with my decision. … I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
Indianapolis Colts tackle/guard Jack Mewhort today announced his retirement. Mewhort, 6-6, 305 pounds, was originally selected by the Colts in the second round (59th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. He started all 45 games he played in along the offensive line at left guard (36), right guard (five) and right tackle (four) over his four seasons in Indianapolis. Mewhort also started three postseason contests.