Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Life after the Steelers Mendenhall Finds New, Surprising Niche

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Life after the Steelers Mendenhall Finds New, Surprising Niche

Article excerpt

For years, Rashard Mendenhall felt constricted, typecast as a character that didn't embody who he truly was. Something was missing in what seemed like an otherwise perfect life as an NFL running back.

But in his football retirement, he has discovered a more creative, fulfilling way to connect with a game he still loves.

Barely 19 months after his final carry, the former Steeler works as a staff writer for "Ballers," a new HBO series about a pro football player turned financial adviser (played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who helps NFL players traverse everything that comes away from the field.

Away from football, he has discovered a calling.

"It's something that I hadn't envisioned, but it's been more perfect than anything I could have envisioned," Mendenhall said.

On a show depicting a side of pro football few get to see, Mendenhall's voice has been a salient one. Though producers consulted a number of former and current players during the series' development, only Mendenhall and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs ever read a script.

Mendenhall not only proofreads material for its authenticity - from how players talk to what they do in the offseason - but he also works with the show's writers in developing stories and characters.

"He was very valuable in the writers' room," said Evan Reilly, one of the show's executive producers. "He was a surprisingly fast learner in an environment that - if you've never been in a writers' room before - can be very noisy and competitive. We wondered if maybe he'd be out of his depth, but he hung right in there."

At an age when, even for a running back, he was entering his physical prime, Mendenhall walked away from a lucrative, highly visible and largely successful career in March 2014 to chase other passions like reading, writing and traveling.

He never fell out of love with football; rather, many of the things that were saddled with it became onerous.

Life in the NFL was all-consuming, so much so that Mendenhall said he constantly felt like he was in a box. When he would do something as simple as post a picture of a book he was reading on social media, he would be hounded by people asking him why he wasn't reading a playbook. …

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