After playing the game he loved his entire life, Ben Utecht had to call it quits a few years ago after sustaining a severe concussion.
And while Utecht had to retire from the NFL before turning 30, his swift and successful transition to the realm of singing and songwriting means he won't have to stop performing anytime soon.
Utecht released his first album after the 2008 season, which turned out to be his last full year in the NFL. During training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, Utecht suffered a severe concussion, the fifth documented concussion of his six-year career. In November of that season he was released by the Bengals. It was a stunning turn of events for a player who, just three years earlier, had helped the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl.
But after his fifth concussion, Utecht knew it was time to hang up the cleats.
"I love football and I had a great career while I was playing," he told the Associated Press last year. "But at the same time it's like, 'Man, I hope the sport I love so much is not going to be the reason I have some serious consequences later on.'"
During the past three years Utecht has performed across the country, and a few weeks ago he even booked a gig with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. He says he is still getting used to performing in front of big crowds, but the move to the second phase of his career has helped ease the pain of leaving the NFL.
"I wish I was back on the field sometimes," Utecht told Fox 31 in Denver. "But transitioning into something I love, like singing, has really helped that process."
Utecht has also released a Christmas album, toured with popular artist Jim Brickman and performed the national anthem at a Cincinnati Reds game.
The 31-year-old Utecht isn't the first former Bengal forced into retirement by injuries who subsequently pursed a career in music. Former Cincinnati defensive lineman Mike Reid retired from the NFL in 1974 and went on to have a successful career as a country music artist.
Below is a clip of Utecht singing at a birthday event for Muhammed Ali in 2012: