After six seasons in the National Football League, Kerry Wynn Jr. has decided to hang up his shoulder pads.
The former Louisa County High School standout announced the decision publicly last week after sitting out the 2020 season following his fifth concussion early in the 2019 season.
“It was the hardest decision in my life, but I had to think about my future,” Wynn said. “Lord willing, I am going to have a family of my own one day. I want to be able to remember things and be able to tell them about it years down the road. By the end of that sixth season, I knew that I was going to retire and honestly never looked back.”
Despite an impressive college career at the University of Richmond, Wynn went undrafted and signed with the New York Giants as a preferred free agent. Wynn made the Giants’ 53-man roster and quickly made a name for himself as a rotational pass rusher and special teamer. He played five seasons for the Giants and played in the 2016 NFC Wild Card game against the Green Bay Packers. He appeared in 65 regular season NFL games during his career, finishing with 143 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception.
“There are so many memories that stick out to me on the field, but one of my favorite would be sacking Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game at Lambeau Field,” Wynn said. “I never made it to the playoffs in high school or college, so for that to be my first playoff game was pretty cool. To grow up and watch guys like Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson and then get to compete against them was a blessing.”
The Louisa County native joined the Bengals for the 2019 season, but his Cincinnati career lasted just two games. Wynn suffered his fifth career concussion in the first quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“The second I hit the player I knew once again I had suffered a concussion,” he said. “After missing four games and having a consistent headache for five weeks straight, I realized the seriousness of the hit I took and I requested a second opinion from the team doctors and flew out to Pittsburgh to see Micky Collins, a concussion expert.”
Wynn was placed on injured reserve a week later and went back to his New Jersey home to recover. The concussion symptoms lingered and it took two more visits to Collins before Wynn was cleared to play with just a few games remaining in the 2019 season.
Wynn used the recovery time to contemplate his future.
“After a few weeks of being home and having time to clear my head and do a lot of thinking and praying,” he said. “I knew that I had played my last snap in the NFL. I knew I was going to retire.”
He had opportunities to play in the NFL in 2020, but stood by his decision.
“I received calls from coaches that I once played with, asking me if I wanted to fly in and meet with their coaching staff and I respectfully declined,” Wynn said. “They understood and wished me well. My last season with the Bengals, I had the best training camp of my career and was playing some of the best football of my life. It wasn’t easy, but I did what was smart for myself and my health.”
Wynn says he is thankful for the opportunities that professional football provided him and his family.
“Playing in the National Football League was a blessing and something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” he said. “It wasn’t easy getting to that level. I sacrificed so much to have a chance, so every day that I walked in to the facility, I never took it for granted. Every time I stepped on that field, I got on a knee and thanked God.”
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end was just the second player from Louisa County to play in the NFL. In 1991, Wynn’s uncle, James Smith, was drafted in the 11th round by the Houston Oilers.
“To be able to represent Louisa County was something special to me,” Wynn said. “Through the grace of God, I was able to play everywhere, from London to Seattle, but I never felt alone. It was such a good feeling to go to my locker after a game and pick up my phone, only to see text messages from my friends and family from Louisa County telling me ‘good game’ and that they were proud of me.”
Wynn credits a great family support system — including his mother Cheryl, his grandmother Lillie and sister Cheri — for helping him through the journey.
“I am thankful for the amazing family that raised me and the county where I grew up and I always tried my best to represent them in a good manner,” Wynn said. “There wasn’t a team that I was on in college or the NFL that didn’t know I was from Louisa County. From the very beginning, there wasn’t a game that my mom, grandmother and sister missed or a practice that they weren’t there to pick me up from.
“You are my “why’ and without you three, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I love you all and thank you.”
After finalizing his retirement plans in 2019, Wynn said he started to plan for the future by tackling a new profession — real estate. At the start of 2020, he enrolled in a New Jersey real estate school and began taking courses. Last February, Wynn passed the exam and became a licensed real estate agent and joined Realty One Group Legend, a brokerage firm in New Jersey.
“The hours I once spent toward football I began spending on growing an learning the business,” he said. “My plans in the future are to invest and build a real estate portfolio for myself, while also helping people find their dream homes. My goal is to continue to give back to and support the community that supported me over the years.”
As he adjusts to a new career, Wynn says he’s at peace with the decision to step away from football.
“It’s honestly not difficult,” Wynn said. “I’ve moved on to real estate and haven’t had a problem looking back. I watch the game and root for my former teammates. I also enjoy watching my first cousin, Kaleb Smith [Virginia Tech] and Brandon Smith [Penn State] play college ball. I have no regrets.”
Wynn remains active in his hometown, including starting the Kerry Wynn “Why Not Me” Foundation, which provides scholarships to seniors who work hard in the classroom and serve as role models for other students in their community.
“The reason we decided on the phrase, ‘Why Not Me’ was because I genuinely believed that if I could do it, then many others from Louisa County could as well,” he said. “I wasn’t the first person from Louisa County to step on an NFL football field and I know I won’t be the last.”
Louisa County will always hold a special place in Wynn’s heart
“If I could experience running out of a tunnel one more time, it would be running through the smoke in ‘The Jungle,’” he said. “I’ve played in front of thousands of fans, but it was nothing like walking down from the middle school, side-by-side with the guys I grew up with and being led through the tunnel by a coach that I respected like no other, Coach Mark Fischer.”
Wynn said the support from the community throughout his career was overwhelming.
“Coming back home to Louisa County and seeing how kids react means more to me than any stadium I’ve played in or any amount of money I’ve made, it really does,” Wynn said. “To have parents come up to me and thank me for setting a good example for their kids and have people I went to school with tell me they are proud of me, means the world. I never, ever took it for granted and I always remember where I came from. I want them to know that their love and support kept me going when times got tough throughout this journey.”
Wynn is excited to see what the next generation of student-athletes from Louisa can do.
“The advice that I would give kids growing up, striving for excellence is to just work your tail off and let God take care of the rest,” Wynn said. “Whether you are a boy or girl, black, white, brown or yellow, you can be anything you want to be in life. You can be the next president or vice president. You can be the next doctor or lawyer, the next teacher or coach. If you want to, you can be the next professional athlete. You can do it, too.”