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Column: Stinchcomb will miss the gridiron

The permission took some time.

Matt Stinchcomb figures it was two years of pestering before his parents finally let him and younger brother Jon play football. It seemed they had outgrown soccer, literally.

So at age 11, Stinchcomb got clearance to play football for the first time.

"We got a lot of red cards," the Parkview grad said. "Unintentional red cards, but red cards nonetheless. It was a long time before

we were allowed to play (football)."

Stinchcomb went on to play four years at Georgia, where he was an All-American, and seven NFL seasons with one Super Bowl trip. But it appears that career is over, cardiovascular issues forcing him out of the game at age 29.

The offensive lineman missed the entire 2005 season with back problems, but the other health issue nudged him into retirement. Tampa Bay released him earlier this year.

"You never want to say never," Stinchcomb said about playing again. "But the doctor did."

I first met Stinchcomb when he was a senior at Parkview, and I was a young writer for Georgia's student newspaper. My first feature for the paper was on Stinchcomb, a Bulldog recruit.

Back then I got the feeling - and he still admits it's true - that he never lived and breathed football. He didn't follow the NFL closely growing up and never made it his main goal to be a pro. He enjoyed the game, but it

wasn't the sole focus of life for one of UGA's most decorated student-athletes ever.

Yet he'll still miss it.

"I think I'm going to miss (football) a lot," the former first-round pick of the Raiders said. "I think this fall is probably going to be a challenge. But you have to turn the page. That's what we'll do. I think I'll miss it a lot more than I thought I would."

At least he has other ways to keep busy. He and his wife have a nearly 2-year-old daughter and a second child on the way. He works with a chemical distribution company and splits time between homes in Florida and Peachtree City.

He's also organizing a fundraiser for children's charities (www.ugakickoff.com) with other former and current Bulldogs.

But this fall he won't be on a football team for the first time since elementary school.

"I'll miss the guys on the team and the games," Stinchcomb said. "I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed practice. I liked the offseason workouts. And I'll really miss the level of camaraderie with the guys."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnett

dailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.