Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday after 12 seasons on the field. Sanders played for five different teams over his career, but he found the most success with the Denver Broncos, where he spent nearly six seasons.
He signed a one-day contract with the Broncos so he could retire wearing the same team jersey he wore when he won Super Bowl 50.
“I gave it my all. Every single rep, every single play, I tried to go 100 percent as hard as I can. And that’s why I can hang my hat and say I gave the game everything I had and the game gave it back to me.”@ESanders_10 announces his retirement as a Bronco: pic.twitter.com/q1QTmy673s
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 7, 2022
Sanders, 35, didn't cite injuries or age as the reason he's retiring. He's simply done everything he set out to do, and now wants to spend time with his family.
"For me, I feel like it's the right time for me," Sanders said via the Broncos team website. "Twelve years. I'm walking away from the game healthy. I've had a great career. I played in a lot of great games. Three Super Bowls. Pro Bowls. I played for some great organizations. And so I just feel like it's my time. Twelve is good for me. Now I can go and run routes with my son and play basketball with my son, hang out with my kids and enjoy my life."
Sanders, who is retiring with 704 catches for 9,245 yards in 172 games, was a third-round pick out of SMU in the 2010 NFL draft, taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanders played in his very first Super Bowl that very same season, which the Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers. He stayed with Pittsburgh for another three years, putting up numbers that made him a very popular free agent.
He ended up signing with the Broncos, which is when his career exploded. Sanders put up three straight seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards, with his 2014 total of 1,404 earned him the first Pro Bowl selection of his career. He'd spend nearly six seasons with the Broncos (he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in the middle of the 2019 season), but his favorite run with the Broncos was in 2015, when he won Super Bowl 50 alongside his friend Demaryius Thomas and QB Peyton Manning, who was playing his final season before retiring.
"And then I just remember sitting next to Peyton, and it was his final game," Sanders said about the last moments of Super Bowl 50. "The clock was ticking down and we were about to win the Super Bowl and I remember looking at Peyton and telling him, 'Just embrace it, man. This is beautiful. This is beautiful. You're going out on top.' And then once the clock struck zero, to be able to go and grab my family and celebrate, it was just one of the best years of my life. It's something that I look back on and I still can't believe, to this day. Like, to see this ring — at one point in my career, all the hard work, all the passion, everything that I gave to this game, all the blood, sweat and tears, at one point I sat on top of the mountain of this game and was arguably one of the best to do it. I'm extremely proud of that."
Sanders spent the final year of his career with the Buffalo Bills, but he always held a torch for Denver, which he calls "wide receiver heaven."
"I went back and watched the video of my interview, my press conference, when I was with the Broncos," Sanders said. "And I said that this place in Denver, Colorado, with the Denver Broncos, was the place that I can hoist the Lombardi Trophy [with] my son, and this is wide receiver heaven. And when I got here, the heavens opened up the gate, and we started throwing the ball all over the field. I had the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl. … It was just a great ride. The best years of my career, by far."