After playing for seven years, all with the Minnesota Vikings, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt has decided to hang up his cleats. He has a lot of great memories spanning throughout his years in Minnesota, but his favorite remains playing during that 2009 season.
Not only was it the year he was drafted, but it was the year his team made it all the way to the NFC Championship. It was the only time he made it that far in the playoffs and when he looks back at the great players he stood beside on the football field, it remains the favorite time of his career.
“I think my greatest Viking memory, for sure, would be 2009,” Loadholt explained. “We made it to the NFC title game, playing with Brett Favre - like I said before - Jared Allen, Adrian (Peterson), Steve Hutchinson, all Hall of Famers. My first time playing with (Chad) Greenway, (Brian Robison) and all those guys, with (John Sullivan). We all were kind of like a foundation that was set here in 2009 and looking back on it that was my greatest memory. Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, all those guys, I learned a lot from a lot of those people that year. Just about how to carry myself as a pro and be around the building and things like that. So that year set the foundation for my career, and looking back on it, it was a great season and I had a lot of fun.”
That season wasn’t the only fond memory he has of his career, though, but it does sound like a lot of them get tied to Peterson. As a big offensive tackle, he loved being able to control the tempo of the game early on and having a player like Peterson behind him to bring it to the house.
Loadholt loved being able to flatten a defender and watch their eyes as they looked at Peterson running by them. He also remembers hearing the crowd cheer as they watched Peterson break away from the defense and end up in the end zone.
“I’ll miss hearing that crowd roar when Adrian breaks an 80-yard run,” he said. “There’s nothing like that.”
Unfortunately for Loadholt, the last two seasons of his career have not been filled with the fondest of memories. He was placed on the team’s injured reserve with a pectoral injury following their Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers in 2014. He was then working on coming back from that in 2015, but tore his Achilles tendon during the second game of the 2015 preseason and was once again placed on the IR.
He would miss the entire 2015 season, but seemed determined to mount another comeback during the 2016 season, but another leg injury recently (after minicamp) indicated to him it was time to retire.
“I have made some progressions during the spring time,” Loadholt began. “I was training and had a little recent setback and from there I kind of figured my body was telling me that it was time for me to transition out of the game.”
Loadholt would not go into specifics about what the setback was, all he said was that it was “something going on with my leg.”
He said that he talked with his family and had some deep conversations with some other people close to him, and those talks ultimately led to him to make the decision to retire at the age of 30.
“This will be the first fall in about 23 years that I’m not getting ready for a season, so it’s going to be rough and it’s been rough the past couple of years,” he said. “But I’ve made peace with my decision and I know that I’d rather be out there 100 percent, giving everything I got instead of being not healthy and ready to roll.”
This retirement doesn’t necessarily mean Loadholt is done with football, though. His hope is to one day come back to the game he loves and help out the younger generations. He wants to teach them about the game and how to play it the right way, but he is going to take some time away from the game first.
His first plan is to possibly take his kids down to Mankato, where the team’s training camp is held, and take them to Jake’s Pizza. Other than that, it is just spending time with his family while he thinks about what the future may have in store for him.
“I still want to be around the game in some capacity,” Loadholt said. “I want to help teach the future generations about staying involved in football and how to play the game. It’s a great game and I’d like to be involved in the future generations of football. But right now I’m just going to spend time with my family and think about my next step.”