Chris Best’s heart is still in football, but his hips couldn’t keep up anymore.
After ten years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders – his entire career – Best announced he was hanging up his cleats Thursday.
“It’s my hips,” Best said while seated beside his wife, Emily, and their three-year-old daughter Libby.
“I just can’t play at the level I need to play at, to play this game the way it needs to be played.”
The offensive lineman was able to fight through injuries with the help of his medical staff and said it wasn’t until recently his hips began holding him back.
He missed the entire 2016 season due to injuries. Best got second and third opinions before making the decision to retire.
“I defined myself as a football player for more than half my life now and it’s going to be a real change, a real adjustment,” he said. “Luckily, I have a strong family behind me that’s going to help me with this adjustment.”
The Best family plans to stay in Regina, where he’s been working as a mechanical engineer in the offseason since 2010. Beyond that, he only has a small idea of what’s to come.
“I got to get smaller,” Best laughed. “I got to get back to normal person size. I have to figure out what that is… I probably have to buy a new wardrobe.”
While Best is feeling the loss of football, centre Dan Clark is feeling the loss of a mentor and teammate in the locker room.
“It’s tough not only from a football player’s standpoint, but you lose a brother,” he said.
“This organization loses not only a great individual, a great person, but they lose a warrior on the football field that never lets anything get in his way.”
When asked what Best taught him, Dan Clark said “everything.”
“How to be a great pro, you look (up) to a guy who comes into work every day and works his tail off…it’s a sad day to see him go,” he said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Jeremy O’Day, who is now an assistant general manager with the Riders, but also suited up with Best as a teammate.
“On the field he was tenacious. He was an old-school offensive lineman that believed in playing physical and it’s not often you could find guys with that aggressiveness,” O’Day said.
As aggressive as he was on the field, off the field Best is described as patient, kind and always making time for rookies.
The offensive lineman was picked fourth overall in the 2005 CFL draft. He reported to the Riders in 2007, just in time for the team to win the first of two Grey Cups during his tenure.
In 2011, Best was named the offensive lineman of the year and in 2013 was a Grey Cup champion again.
Best played more than 100 games with the Riders in his decade-long career.