A year ago, Anthony Castonzo contemplated retirement before returning on a short-term contract.
Eleven months after telling Colts general manager Chris Ballard he'd be back for 2020, Castonzo is calling it a career. Castonzo announced his retirement Tuesday, bringing to a close a 10-year career in which the tackle started all 144 regular season games and eight postseason games in which he appeared.
"As a kid, it was my dream to play in the NFL," Castonzo said in a statement released by the team. "I played my first full season of tackle football in second grade. Now I have played my last. As I sit here now, after a 10 year NFL career, I am extremely proud of all the hard work and sacrifice that allowed me to evolve that dream into a goal, and ultimately into a reality unlike anything I could have even imagined.
"More than anything, I want to thank everyone who supported me along the way, especially those who believed in me during times when I did not believe in myself. So thank you to the GMs who believed in me. Thank you to all the coaches who have taught me so much in my 25 total years of football. Thank you to the fans who are so dedicated to the game we all love. Thank you to my teammates who have become friends and those who I now call brothers. Thank you to all the strength coaches, trainers, and medical staff who gave me the blueprint to build (and sometimes rebuild) myself into the best player I could be. Thanks to all the support staff who helped make my daily work experience a joyous one. And thank you to my family who is every one of these things and so much more.
"I was fortunate to have been drafted by the Colts 10 years ago. I was even more fortunate to spend my entire career here in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Colts is a special organization with special ownership who fill the organization with special people at every level. I truly believe this is the best organization in all of sports. I am lucky to have been able to call myself a Colt for the past ten years and will consider myself a Colt for the rest of my life.
"I have given much to the game of football, but it has given me so much more. I close the book on the football chapter of my life gifted with memories and moments I wouldn't trade for anything. So thank you, last but far from least, to football."
A first-round pick out of Boston College, Castonzo made an immediate and long-lasting impact up front for the Colts, who rarely needed to worry about who would protect Andrew Luck's blindside. Though he never made a Pro Bowl in his career, Castonzo was worth the first-round pick Indianapolis spent on him in 2011, posting Pro Football Focus offensive grades above 74 in all but two seasons. Colts general manager Chris Ballard called Castonzo "a pillar of this team for the last 10 seasons" in response to the tackle's decision to retire.
His 2020 grade was his lowest for a season since his rookie year but was still above 73, exemplifying Castonzo's consistency that made him a key part of Indianapolis' stellar offensive line.
"The Colts have been blessed with many talented offensive linemen throughout our rich history and Anthony Castonzo is among the best to represent the Horseshoe," Colts owner Jim Irsay said in the statement. "For 10 seasons, Anthony consistently handled premier pass rushers at one of the toughest positions to play. He quickly developed into the leader of our offensive line and set a standard for preparation, strength and conditioning, and play.
"Anthony deserves a tremendous amount of credit for helping our offensive line mature into one of the best units in the NFL. He will (be) sorely be missed, but we are so appreciative of AC's contribution to our organization and we congratulate him on a fantastic career."
Center and longtime teammate Ryan Kelly tweeted his gratitude and congratulations for Castonzo on Tuesday:
A significant ankle injury ended Castonzo's season in Week 16 and required surgery, leading some to believe they might have seen the tackle in a Colts uniform for the last time. That proved to be true with Tuesday's announcement, which follows Indianapolis' wild-card loss to Buffalo on Saturday.