He has a Super Bowl ring and was part of arguably one of the best NFL teams ever assembled, but former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who now struggles with early-onset dementia, said he would have chosen baseball over football if he had to do it over again.
McMahon’s struggles with dementia is what prompted him to rethink the choices he made that led to his football career, although he said he was grateful for the opportunities opened up to him through football.
The former Bears quarterback was highly touted coming out of Brigham Young University, where he also played baseball. McMahon, 53, said he would’ve steered himself toward baseball if he were able to go back to his college days.
"Being injured, if you don't play, you don't get paid. If I was able to walk out on that field, I was gonna play," McMahon told My Fox Chicago in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday, referring to how he was on the receiving end of some hard hits during his NFL career. "Had I known about that stuff early on in my career, I probably would have chosen a different career. I always wanted to be a baseball player anyway."
"I went to college I played both sports, I would have stuck to that. That was my first love was baseball and had I had a scholarship to play baseball, I probably would have played just baseball,” McMahon added. “But football paid for everything, it still does. That Super bowl XX team is still as popular as it ever was. Until they win again, we're gonna still make money."
McMahon also detailed how his dementia affects him in everyday life.
"When my friends call and leave me a message ... I'll read it and delete it before I respond and then I forget who called and left me a message," he said.
McMahon, who won Super Bowl XX with the Bears, said he tries to keep his mind active by reading to make the best out of his situation.
"Other than just sitting in the house, I'm on the road doing these different events and charities, helping my buddies out," McMahon said. "When I'm home, I'm usually sitting in the back of my room just watching TV in the dark, and when I come out, it's to the kitchen to get something to eat."
McMahon is one of 2,000 retired NFL players suing the league, claiming the NFL was not forthcoming about the risks of multiple brain concussions. McMahon suffered memory problems, which he blames on the hits he took in the NFL.
"The guys that started the lawsuit out ... these guys are in dire needs. Both financially and in their health," McMahon told My Fox Chicago. "I didn't make a lot of money in the '80s, so you know what these guys made. A lot of them had to have jobs in the off season, this and that ... I've never had a job other than the NFL, and I hope to never have one. I'm not in it for the money. This is about raising awareness, whether or not these guys knew back then this was going to happen."