Ohio State linebacker Matt Wilhelm is shown in this Nov. 23, 2002 file photo.
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A lifetime of hard hits is catching up to Matt Wilhelm.
An All-American linebacker on Ohio State’s national championship team, he senses his memory slipping.
“Just not really being able to recall specifics about games and events,” said Wilhelm, who estimates he suffered four or five concussions in his career.
But he counts himself among the lucky ones. Wilhelm, 31, was smart with the millions he earned over an eight-year NFL career and left the game on his own terms.
“For the most part,” he said, “I’m healthy.”
Wilhelm retired from the Green Bay Packers after the 2010 season the same way he left OSU — as a champion — and now lives in his native Lorain, Ohio, where he works as a promoter for a 90-day fitness challenge from the Los Angeles-based company ViSalus.
He hopes to stay involved with the game. A veteran of the NFL’s Broadcast Boot Camp, an annual four-day training session for players interested in talking football after walking it, Wilhelm plans to look for television work in the future.
But for now, his job is as a husband and father to two young children, Mason, 4, and Gianna, 2 — the reason he chose to stay at home when the NFL lockout ended late last summer.
“Being with my children throughout the lockout was probably the reason why I left,” said Wilhelm, a fourth-round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers in 2003. “I knew it would be difficult for me to be away from them. I really just made the determination of walking away on top, winning a Super Bowl after having a successful career.”
Mason, too, has seen clips of the championship game.
“I’ll ask him who it is, and he’ll say it’s me,” Wilhelm said with a laugh. “But he doesn’t know what or why or anything about it.”
Growing up in Ohio, he will soon enough.