In a statement given exclusively to Sports Spectrum, Forte expressed his gratitude to all of those who helped him along in his football journey:
For the past 10 years, I’ve been blessed to play professionally a game that I’ve loved since I was 6 years old. But, after much prayer and reflection, I’ve decided to retire from the NFL. Like so many others before me, this game has enhanced my life in numerous ways. My career in the League has been nothing short of a miracle granted by God and put on display for His glory. I will cherish the many memories made on the field and the lifelong friends I’ve made over the years in the locker room. I’m even more grateful that God blessed me with Gene and Gilda Forté, my two amazing parents that constantly supplied me with unending love, support, patience and motivation since I came into this world. I’ve become the man and father that I am today because of both of you. I am forever indebted to Jimmie and Dolores Daniels and the city of Chicago because not only did I get to live out my childhood dream in playing for the Bears, but also it was here where I fell in love with my beautiful wife, Danielle, and started a family of my own. I want to thank my agent, Adisa Bakari, for guidance throughout my career and preparing me for this moment and for life after football while still playing. It’s not often that you see an agent who cares about his clients beyond the contracts and field and for that, I appreciate you. I’d like to thank the New York Jets organization for the past two years. My experience as a Jet was truly first-rate. To all of my many coaches and teachers over the years, thank you for your dedication and commitment to my growth and success as a person and player. To the McCaskey family and the entire Chicago Bears organization, thank you for the honor of allowing me to be a part of the rich Chicago Bears tradition and to run in the footsteps of greats like Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. Lastly, to all Chicago Bears fans, you’re truly the best fans in all of professional sports. Thank you for embracing my family and me from day one! The roar of the crowd at Soldier Field as I’d break a run or make a big catch will forever be ingrained in my mind. The past 25 years playing America’s game have left me with unparalleled joy. But, it’s time for the workhorse to finally rest in his stable. While my heart is a bit heavy as I close this chapter of my life, I am excited about what the future holds. God Bless and Bear Down!
— Matt Forté
Matt Forte joined us for an exclusive interview immediately after his retirement announcement
Originally a second-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 2008, Forte went on to play in 146 regular-season games and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2011 and 2013.
Forte, 32, finishes his career 32nd on the all-time rushing list (9,976 yards) and 43rd overall on the NFL’s all-purpose career yardage list (14,468). He was also one of the most productive receiving backs, with 554 career receptions, 4,672 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns.
He is second on the Bears’ all-time rushing yards list behind Hall of Famer Walter Payton.
Following the announcement, I spoke with Forte exclusively on our podcast about his decision to retire and how faith played a role in it.
JASON: Congratulations on an amazing NFL career. Take me into the moments when you first started thinking about retirement? What led you to make this decision right now?
MATT: A lot of moments that go into it. After my 9th season and heading into my 10th season, I was already thinking about the future beyond year 10. When I first came into the NFL, I actually asked God to grant me 10 years in the NFL and He did not disappoint. I had played as long as I actually wanted to play and through a lot of prayer and talking to my wife and family and everyone, I decided to call it a career and move on to bigger and better things. A decade is a long time but on the grand scheme of things, there’s a lot of life ahead of me.
JASON: What role did your faith in Christ play in your decision and making this announcement?
MATT: The biggest role. Obviously, stepping out on faith to see what the future holds in that aspect. But also, God has remained faithful in my 10 years of playing in the NFL. If you look at the statistics, I think the league average is under three years of a career and for running backs it’s even less. To play 10 years in the NFL, especially at running back is an amazing blessing. I actually consider it a miracle considering coming from a small school, small town and being able to make a name for myself through the NFL and giving glory back to God.
JASON: How is your health and how did that play a part in the decision?
MATT: That definitely played a role in my decision as well. The last two years, I have had some knee issues on both knees actually and as you play running back in this league, you can imagine you take a lot of hits and you get beat up so that played a huge role in it. The last two years I actually ended the season on injured reserve which is not what you want to do but that’s just the nature of the game and the nature of the sport. When I was playing in Chicago for the eight years prior to that, I never came off the field. I had always 85 and 95% of the plays on the field. I was grinding it out every year out there on the field. Whether I was playing hurt or playing injured and doing those things just to stay on the field and after years it takes a toll on your body so that played a big role in my decision as well. As you get older, as soon as you turn 30 years old and I’m 32 now. It’s not so much that your skills diminish, it’s just your body is not as able to recover as quickly as it used to and there’s injuries that will linger around and that will always be there and so I didn’t feel like I could play at the level like I wanted to anymore given my injuries and the wear and tear on my body and wanted to be able when I get older, much older, to be able to play with my kids and play basketball again with them, you know play different kind of sports and run around and not worry about my knees and everything else hurting me. It played a hefty role in my decision as well.
JASON: What’s your favorite memory of your 10-year career?
MATT: There’s a lot of those and it’s hard to pick from but one that really sticks out to me the most is I would say actually came in my first game as a Chicago Bear. My first game ever playing and actually my first game starting where we went to play on Sunday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning. It was a rematch of the ’06 Super Bowl that the Bears had lost in and nobody gave us a chance. We went in there on Sunday Night and we won the game. I ran for 123 yards or something like that and I ran my first touchdown in that game as well. And what’s special for me was that Lucas Oil was a new stadium and that was the first touchdown scored in that stadium during the regular season. I got to say I scored the first touchdown in Lucas Oil Stadium. After the game, I got player of the game along with Brian Urlacher and I was able to give God the glory after that so it was an amazing special moment to me.”
JASON: What comes to your mind when I mention Soldier Field and the Chicago Bears fans?
MATT: Those memories of playing on opening day at Soldier Field. Another special moment to me is my parents attended, if not all of them, 99% of the home games that I played at Soldier Field. They were sitting in the end zone and I scored a touchdown against the Colts again on opening day and I was able to hand the ball to my father in the stands, right there in the front row. That was a real special moment. We got a picture of that, me actually scoring a touchdown and being able to hand him the ball and him reaching for it and my mom cheering and being right there. Soldier Field brings back so many memories of different games. Opening day, the weather was always really nice but also playing those games in December or January in negative degrees when it was negative degrees or snowing or freezing. Seeing those fans out there, even those the elements were tough to be in and cheering us on, will always be engrained in my mind and my heart.
JASON: There was a tight knit group that formed in New York during your 2 years with the Jets,
MATT: I grew a lot as a man and as a Christian man there as well. A lot of guys knew me from playing in Chicago so they hadn’t been around me. I always get asked by a lot of the younger players some kind of advice for on the field and off the field and I was able to mentor a lot of the young guys on the team and show them how to be a pro and how to approach the game and not to take it for granted because you’re not guaranteed to have a 10, 12, 15 year career all the time. It was a special locker room where I was able to help young men and young athletes that’s on the upcoming, to pour into their lives so that they can become better themselves not only on the field but off the field. A lot of guys I think appreciated that advice that I gave them and just the example I would set and the standard that I set in the locker room and on the field with those guys. We kind of changed and turned the locker room around in one year and set the standard high so that going forward a lot of those young guys will continue to set that standard and be those professionals and set the example for the young guys that are coming up behind them. It’s kind of a trickle down effect and I think it’s going to help the organization where, these guys will continue to get better and better and not let a lot of success or even failures go to their head. That they would stay level-headed and continue to grow their character on and off the field because that’s what it really is all about. The character of someone in tough times, not when everything is going good or is peachy keen. I think I left a good legacy in the locker room for guys to follow up to and also to learn behind as well.
JASON: Are there any regrets during your career?
MATT: I’d say not winning a championship which a lot of great players and actually hall of fame guys have not been able to gain that championship ring or play in the big big game. The furthest I got was being able to play in the NFC Championship game, which was awesome but we ended up losing that to the Packers when they won the Super Bowl. But not many regrets on my part. Everything has been such a blessing. God has blessed me to play this long a tenure in the league and to attain many goals that at one point I never thought I would even touch, even to break some records. It’s been an awesome ride for me to be able to do these things and for a lot of the opportunities through the game that has been brought to me that I’ll be able to spread the wealth, spread God’s word, a lot of opportunities come off the field with stepping into the NFL so I’m thankful and grateful for being able to play this long a time and also not have a lot of really serious career-ending injuries but all those other injuries do add up so God has blessed in many different ways and I’m just so thankful to be able to settle down now and look back and reflect how good He’s been to me in my career.
JASON: So what happens now? Matt Forte the football player is done. What’s on the horizon for you Matt Forte, the husband, the Dad, the entrepreneur, the follower of Jesus?
MATT: I’m going to continue to be a great husband and continue to work on that, continue to be a great father and be there for my children as I always have been and continue to instill in them great character and help them to build character and add value to society. I’m going to continue to be an entrepreneur because there is going to be opportunities that come off the field now more than ever where I have a chance to do a lot of different things that I didn’t have the time to do when I was playing the game whether that’s in TV or businesses or many different things. I have a lot of options at my hand so I’m excited about that. But also most of all is being able to, you know, people are going to ask me questions about playing in the NFL and now and being able to speak to them and on how good God has been to me throughout my career and how good He continues to be throughout my life. I’ll be able to continue to spread the Gospel and spread God’s word and how good he’s been throughout the rest of my entire life.
JASON: Leave us with what the Lord has been teaching you during this time of transition and ultimately coming to the decision to make this announcement?
MATT: The main thing I’ve been learning from God is to trust Him. In the Bible, He talks about trusting Him so much and anybody can pray that prayer or say it but it’s a different thing to do it. And it’s the most valuable thing I can do right now is trust in Him. I started playing football when I was 7. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and then just to stop one day, there’s going to be times where I wish I was back on the field or that when July and August and September rolls around where my body feels like I should be on the field right now and I’m going to be turning to God to trust in Him and He’s going to guide me in the right direction. One of my favorite verses which I’m teaching my daughter right now is Hebrews 13:8, and it says “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” and so if I continue to trust in Him, you know He doesn’t change. I have to follow in His footsteps so if I see something going wrong or if I feel something going in a different way, He hasn’t left me. He’s always been there the entire time and that means I have to realign my direction in His footsteps and follow Him and continue to trust in Him so the main thing that God has taught me throughout these years and especially more than ever right now is to trust Him and continue to follow in his footsteps.
JASON: Matt thank you so much for being a part of Sports Spectrum and joining us here. We wish you nothing but the best and we’ll talk to you soon I hope.
MATT: I appreciate Sports Spectrum for allowing me to express this and allowing this platform. I’m just going to keep spreading God’s word and I thank you guys for supplying this for us.
In 2017, Matt shared with The Increase what this platform of football did for him to positively influence others.