Former Notre Dame great Stephon Tuitt retired from football on Wednesday at the age of 29, citing the tragic loss of his brother and recently earning his degree from the University of Notre Dame as the impetus behind the decision.
A year ago today, Tuitt lost his younger brother to a hit-and-run accident that remains unsolved today, leaving the Tuitt family still looking for answers and closure from the tragedy. Last month, Tuitt completed his degree at Notre Dame after leaving the University early following the 2013 season to pursue an NFL career that left Tuitt set for life financially. When he announced his retirement yesterday, he cited both as reasons for his decision.
Statement from Stephon Tuitt: pic.twitter.com/46iOoOZZZW— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 1, 2022
Tuitt earned more than $55 million throughout his eight-year NFL career, thanks mainly to a 5-year $60 million contract he signed following the 2017 season. His initial contract as a second-round pick netted him just under $4 million over his first three seasons. The Steelers rewarded Tuitt with the ever-coveted second contract after three seasons, and Tuitt rewarded them with his performance on the field.
Tuitt did not play at all in 2021, in part due to a knee procedure in September and in part due to the tragedy he and his family suffered. However, before missing all of last year, Tuitt had developed into one of the best interior linemen in all of football. In 15 games in 2020, he racked up 11.0 sacks bringing his career total to 31.0. Earlier this week, PFF rated Tuitt as one of the top 15 interior linemen in the NFL for 2022, even after he missed all of 2021.
The Steeler selected Tuitt #46 overall after back-to-back dominating seasons at Notre Dame that saw him rack up 19.5 sacks over the course of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, including 12.0 in 2012 alone. Tuitt helped power the great Notre Dame defense in 2012 that propelled the Irish to a 12-0 regular season and berth in the BCS Championship game.
He also recorded one of the most iconic plays of that wildly fun regular season with his 77-yard fumble recovery against Navy in Ireland, where the nearly 300 lbs lineman outran the Navy offense.
A lot of Notre Dame fans forget that Tuitt played through some injuries in 2013 that really affected his impact otherwise he could have left Notre Dame as the all-time sack leader in program history – a milestone current senior Isaiah Foskey is chasing this fall for the Irish.
Tuitt left Notre Dame after his junior season, but came back to Notre Dame this spring to finish his degree, which he earned last month. With his degree in hand, Tuitt decided to retire even though the Steelers would have paid him $9 million this season.
While the circumstances surrounding Tuitt’s retirement are unfortunate, the fact that he leaves the game of football after a successful and lucrative career with his degree in hand is almost a case study of why Notre Dame’s “Four to 40” isn’t just a recruit ploy or a marketing pitch. Not every player can walk away from the game in a situation where they’ve earned that big second paycheck and can walk away to pursue something with a greater purpose.
Stephon Tuitt was one of the most fun players to root for over the last decade of Notre Dame. So here’s wishing him and his family well in his retirement, and here’s hoping he can put that well-earned Notre Dame degree to good use in whatever it is he decides to pursue next.