DOVE VALLEY, CO. — “Well, I’ve fought a good fight. I’ve finished my football race, and after seven months. It’s time. God bless all of you and God bless football.”
And with that, the storied career of Patrick “Phatty” Pharr came to an end. Pharr unexpectedly announced his retirement at age 23 at the Broncos facility on Thursday. The undrafted free agent out of Weber State University chose to retire after a full season on the practice squad, in which he helped the team win Super Bowl 50.
“Playing this game at a level directly adjacent to the highest level takes a lot out of you,” said Pharr. “It was great to get a championship in that first and last season, though, you know? To go in and out on top.”
Pharr said he retired primarily because he wanted to spend more time with his family, which currently consists of a “soon-to-be girlfriend” named Gina he met at a Super Bowl party.
The press conference began with a few words from Broncos CEO Joe Ellis, who remarked that it was a “special, memorable, and remarkable time in the practice squad’s history,” before going on to ask the Broncos staff in the room, “Wait, can just anyone call a press conference? Is it like a call from jail, where you always get one, no matter what?”
When Pharr spoke, he recalled some of the fondest memories of his storied career. “In the locker room, Von Miller asked me if he could borrow my phone charger. Moments like that helped keep me going and helped get me to where I am today.”
Broncos’ General Manager John Elway was beside himself at the podium. “Why am I here again? What did this guy do?” remarked the Denver Broncos legend at the beginning of his brief, yet touching remarks. “I thought we cut this dude!” he noted as he stormed out of the media room.
No word yet on whether Pharr’s name will make the Practice Squad Ring of Honor that lines the shower stalls at the UC Health Training Center, or if his famed jersey number, 94, will be retired by the team. “We’re gonna wash it before we give it to the next guy, if that’s what you’re asking…” said equipment manager Brent Douglas, trying coyly not to give away the decisions about how Pharr’s legacy will be honored.
Pharr had a reputation around the organization as a real person who really played on the practice squad. “He was a lineman for us, but I guess he isn’t now, after all of this.” noted Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, holding back tears. “He wasn’t all that great, but he’s just who we needed to help us prepare for Carolina’s mediocre line. Ha ha!”
Pharr said he really enjoyed his final weeks in the organization, but he was quick to note that things were not always as perfect as the media portrayed them to be. He recalled a moment from early in his time with the Broncos: “My grandfather would call me weekly to ask if his favorite announcers, John Madden and Pat Summerall, would be broadcasting our game. ‘Paw Paw,’ I’d say, ‘I play on the practice squad. Madden and Summerall don’t broadcast those kinds of games. Also, I think Pat Summerall is dead.’”
Pharr’s teammates and colleagues took to social media to send him their well wishes. Defensive end Matt Hindemith tweeted, “imma miss hittin phatty pharr all across his phatty phace…not.” Practice Squad Coordinator MarDonius Gaines-Yardley wrote a heartfelt Instagram caption, referring to Pharr by the retiree’s favorite nickname as opposed to the more popular “Phatty.” “I guess I won’t have to watch ‘Frozen’ anymore…kid’s all grown up #letitgo.” The caption was inexplicably placed alongside a picture of an unidentified Caucasian child.
And of course, some who knew Pharr way back in his college days reached out as well. “Sorry to hear about your, uh, retirement,” tweeted former Weber State center Dwayne Bozeman. He went on to offer Pharr a fun way to pass time in his retirement years: “We could use another salesman at the furniture store I work at…you down?”
As for the first thing he’ll do now that he’s free from the work grind? “Get a Papa John’s pizza. Peyton left some coupons in everyone’s lockers on his way out.”
Raynell Cooper is a writer based in Washington DC. You should follow him on Twitter.