Eskimos' 2016 draft pick Doug Corby retires at 22, just two days into full camp

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Eskimos' 2016 draft pick Doug Corby retires at 22, just two days into full camp
Eskimos' 2016 draft pick Doug Corby retires at 22, just two days into full camp

There's been a remarkable flood of young CFL and NFL players retiring lately, including former NFL safety Walter Thurmond walking away at 28 Tuesday. Still, the news that Edmonton Eskimos' receiver Doug Corby has retired at 22 is particularly surprising, especially considering that he was just drafted, seemed to have a ton of CFL potential, had been in camp for less than a week (rookie camps opened last Wednesday, full camps opened Sunday) and had never played a professional game. According to Eskimos' head coach Jason Maas, Corby didn't feel like continuing in football:

Corby didn't return a request for comment by the time this piece was published, so we don't know exactly why he left, but he's certainly not the only player to walk away from football young. Some of the CFL players to leave just this offseason include 29-year olds Shea Emry and Matt Carter (both over fears of further concussions) and  26-year-old Ben Heenan (to turn to farming), and previous young CFL retirements include 23-year-old Steven Lumbala (to take an oil and gas job), 26-year-old Robert Marve (over knee injuries), and 28-year-olds Dmitri Tsoumpas and Andrew Woodruff (both over concussions). Plenty of NFL players have left very young, too, including former CFLer Armond Armstead (at 23 over heart issues), Chris Borland (at 24 over concussion worries), and Anthony Davis (at 25 over an accumulation of injuries, including a concussion). All of those guys spent at least a season and often more in professional football, though, making Corby's decision stand out even more.

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Corby seemed to be a great CFL prospect, too, so this is a significant blow for the Eskimos. He had a great university career at Queen's, and led all of Ontario University Athletics with 19.3 yards per catch last season; he also put up the best 40-yard-dash at this year's CFL Combine, recording a time of 4.505 seconds. That speed and big-play ability is rare for a Canadian receiver, making him a very valuable CFL commodity. (He was also one that even drew some NFL interest, attending a New York Giants' minicamp with several other CIS players.) Corby was ranked 20th in the CFL's final pre-draft prospect ranking, and it was somewhat surprising that he was still available in the sixth round for Edmonton, which is why we tabbed him as one of our picks for post-first round picks who could make a big 2016 impact. The Eskimos also have some openings at receiver after Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker, so there was possibly a chance for Corby to see substantial playing time. Now, they'll have to rely on others. Their Canadian depth has really taken hits this week, too, with DT Mathieu Boulay and FB Zander Robinson also retiring.

We don't know why Corby walked away, but if it was to pursue opportunities outside of football, that might be more evidence that the CFL needs to look at boosting its lower-level salaries. The minimum salary in 2016 is $52,000, and while that's not bad by the standards of the general population (especially for a job that mostly runs from May through November; players need to train and stay in shape in the offseason and attend occasional team activities, but that's not a full-time pursuit), it's a long way from the millions many professional athletes make. Football's also an extremely punishing game that can have negative effects on the rest of your life, from concussions, knee or back injuries, or other wounds, so it isn't unreasonable to see some guys walking away young.

It is interesting that Corby seemed to have a change of heart, though; he seemed very into the idea of being a professional football player earlier this year, attending and starring at the CFL combine and attending the Giants' minicamp. He also seemed happy and committed after the Eskimos drafted him: here are his most recent tweets, which came around May 10's CFL draft.

People can always change their mind, and it sure looks like Corby did. We don't know what happened to alter his decision, so it will be worth watching to see if he does speak out at some point. For now, though, his story may be yet another entry in the annals of football players retiring young, but it's one of the most surprising and remarkable ones to date.

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