Most football fans probably couldn’t imagine an NFL player on a team many predict will make the Super Bowl, voluntarily deciding to hang up his cleats and leave football in the middle of his third season.  Most Americans probably couldn’t imagine a twenty-seven-year-old man, who is currently making $625,000 and is scheduled to make $752,000 next year, telling his employer “thanks, but no thanks”.  Yet recently an NFL player named John Moffitt did exactly that.

John Moffitt is (was) a third year offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos who, after the first half of the 2013 season, told his team that he wasn’t coming back after the team’s bye week.  He was done with football.

Is he crazy?  I don’t think so.  Here are some of his remarks explaining his decision:

“I just really thought about it and decided I’m not happy. I’m not happy at all,” Moffitt told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Seattle.  And I think it’s really madness to risk your body, risk your well-being and risk your happiness for money.  […]  I just want to be happy.  And I find that people that have the least in life are sometimes the happiest. And I don’t have the least in life. I have enough in life. And I won’t sacrifice my health for that.  […] Once you tear away all the illusions of it, it’s hard work. And it’s dangerous work. And you’re away from your family. And it’s not good for families. It’s very tough on families.
(Associated Press, more available here)

I’m a big football fan. I’m also a red-blooded American who will probably never make anywhere near half the salary Moffitt did while he was in the NFL. But to me, Moffitt’s decision is one of the most sensible things I’ve heard in American society.  Many professional athletes make a lot of money and become famous for playing a game that they love. That’s the dream of an athlete, and most seem to enjoy what they do. But if someone isn’t happy with what he does, he shouldn’t risk his health, well-being, and family life to keep doing it, even if the money is very good.

Often, not only in sports but in society at large, we forget what’s really important in life. Many of us focus on money and don’t think much about what will really make us happy.  Of course we all need money.  But how much do we need?  How much will make us happy?  If we had all the money we needed, what would we want to do?  Is there any amount of that thing (whatever it is) that we can do now?  Everyone’s answers will be different, but the important thing is that we all ask ourselves these questions and be honest with ourselves.

The Mishnah teaches:

Who is rich?  One who is happy with what he has.  (Avot 4:1)

Many people in this world have more money than I can imagine spending, and yet are not happy. On the other hand Moffitt is walking away from over a million dollars because he decided he has enough and just wants to be happy. He is an example of what it truly means to be rich, and he’s a reminder of what’s really important in life.