Andrew Whitworth announced his retirement ending a sixteen-year career with a Super Bowl ring against his former team, and a legacy as one of the most highly respected players of his era. That is not hyperbole but a fact.
His Super Bowl weekend began being named the Walter Payton Man of the Year which honors the player who made the most impact on their community. Andrew Whitworth is a sure-fire Hall of Famer both as a player and as a mensch. His impact on both the Bengals and Rams is immeasurable by raw stats and the story of Andrew Whitworth is one that will be most accurately told by the players and coaches who met him along the way. What can’t be disputed at this point is the idea that Andrew Whitworth is the biggest free-agent signing in Rams’ history.
While he eventually won a Super Bowl with the Rams after being in Cincinnati for his entire career to that point, Andrew Whitworth has always been a winner. He was a two-time national champion in high school football while also being a champion tennis player. He won a college national title with LSU in 2003 under Nick Saban (Saban would later mysteriously disappear for two years prior to coaching Alabama).
Whitworth would then be drafted by the Bengals with the 55th overall pick where he initially started at guard. In 2009, he was cemented as the team’s starting left tackle and from there he made two first-team All-Pro teams, one second-team, and three Pro Bowls. He even caught a touchdown against the Steelers in 2010. Alas, despite his individual success the Bengals never won any of their playoff games.
After eleven years with the Bengals, Andrew Whitworth signed with the Rams on March 9, 2017. In hindsight, this seems like a logical choice. After all, he joined a readymade playoff team. They had a number one overall pick in Jared Goff, and a third-year dynamo in Todd Gurley. Sean McVay was the boy genius coach that everyone knew would eventually win a Super Bowl. However, at the time, most of those things weren’t evident. In fact, Andrew Whitworth signing with the Rams was a head-scratcher for both sides. Why after years of futility in Cincinnatti would he go into a situation that could be politely referred to as a dumpster fire? And for the Rams, signing a veteran offensive tackle is a risky proposition as by the time their rebuild is bearing any fruit he’d be over the hill. And yet, this was the single biggest signing in franchise history.
Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Reggie White are regarded as the three most consequential free agency signings in league history. Their impact is easy to measure but for a left tackle to be in that company isn’t so easy to discern. He helped Sean McVay establish the “WE NOT ME” culture and his impact on the field can be seen via Todd Gurley going from the rookie sensation that experienced a major second-year slump to the offensive player of the year. He brought leadership to a line that desperately needed it. He helped Jared Goff shed the “BUST” label he received following his disastrous rookie season. Without Whitworth, none of the Rams’ success was likely to happen. He became an instant locker room leader and a key reason why the Rams could bring in other teams’ malignant tumors and turn them benign.
His impact far exceeded the locker room. He and his wife Melissa established themselves as pillars in the community. When wildfires and a tragic shooting rocked the community of Thousand Oaks where the Rams training facility currently resides, Whitworth donated his game check of $60,000 to help establish a fund for the victims. When COVID hit he donated $250,000 to the Los Angeles food bank for those impacted by the pandemic. There are countless examples of Whitworth’s doing what they can for the Los Angeles area.
It’s possible that Andrew Whitworth will be involved with the Rams somehow as a coach or a mentor figure but if his retirement press conference is his last moment as a Ram then he went out in the most Jason Katims way possible. He played the last game of his career against his former team and went out a champion. He pushed everyone to be better and while the Rams have had great offensive line coaches in Aaron Kromer and now Kevin Carberry, he also pushed his fellow lineman and everyone in the building to be better.
Again, it’s not something that will show up on the stat sheet but it can be seen by players and coaches at his retirement press conference, the messages peers and media members sent out on social media, and the communities he and his family have impacted. It was an honor to watch him play, or hear him speak, and Rams fans everywhere will always have a special place in their heart for Big Whit.
Thank you for everything, Andrew Whitworth!