EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rashad Jennings has told the story before of how he was once a chubby 6-year-old with asthma and some seemingly unlikely NFL dreams. He thought of that kid again on Friday, as his eight-year NFL career officially came to an end.
"It's not every day you can ask a kid that's 6 years old and say, 'What do you want to do when you get older?' and you talk to him at 32 years old and he tells you that's exactly what he's been doing," Jennings said. "And because of that I'm full, I'm complete, I'm humble. I have no regrets. If I could rewind the tape, I would do it the exact same way."
Things certainly ended up working out well for Jennings, the former Giants running back who officially announced his retirement while his old team was out on the practice field. He did make it to the NFL, played those eight seasons, and rushed for 3,772 yards, including 2,095 in his three seasons as a Giant from 2014 to 2016). His final NFL game was even a playoff game (albeit a 38-9 loss in Green Bay) - the "17th game" he had strived for since he broke into the league.
Since his last game last January, things have gotten even better. Jennings' fame exploded last spring when he joined ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," and with his dance partner, Emma Slater, won the famed Mirror Ball Trophy in May.
That has opened all sorts of new opportunities for Jennings -- although he made it clear the opportunity he would have preferred was another season in the NFL.
"The only reason I'm retiring is because I didn't get picked up," Jennings said. "Let's be honest."
Jennings said he did have some conversations with teams when free agency began, and a few more when current NFL running backs started getting injured. "But nobody pulled the trigger, obviously," Jennings said, even though he was ready to go if anyone had called.
"I still can play," Jennings said. "I could play right now. I'm not out of shape. Don't kid yourself. I don't get out of shape. But I also understand. I'm a realist. I get the perspective and perception and I get how the boards go and the meetings. You think about finances. There's a lot that goes into it.
"I'm just being very honest with myself and understanding where I'm at in life and I think it's time to let it go."
So what's next for a man whose stardom now reaches far beyond football? He's open to anything. And possibly everything.
"Obviously I'm not going to dismiss that I'm going to be eventually looking for my wife one day," he said. "I'm not going to dismiss a lot of things. But acting is going to be something that's in the arsenal. Writing books is something that's in the arsenal, that's in the works. Potentially this dance I fell in love with is something that I will continue, regardless of where I'm at. Potentially commentating. Poetry I'm going to start taking a little bit more serious. I get to pick up new quirks along the way that I'm sure I can't even explain them all. I'm a true lover of life. The Rashad Jennings Foundation is something that's stapled in my heart.
"Listen, the future is big and it's bright. I know it is. I'm happy to walk into it and see what God has in store."