By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Patriots fullback James Develin announced on his Instagram page Monday that he is retiring from professional football. His NFL career is over after eight years and seven seasons with New England.
Develin, 31, said in the announcement that his decision to retire stems from "unforeseen complications" surrounding the neck/upper back injury that ended his season in 2019. He's making what his family decided is in their best interests long-term. Develin has two young sons and a daughter with his wife, Jennifer.
"Honestly, in my 25 years of playing the game of football I never once thought this day would come," Develin's post begins. "Not only because I never lent my mind to the thought of me not playing football, but just because of how slim the chances truly were of me realizing my football dreams.
"My whole football career has been a million to one shot, so to sit here today and even have the ability to write these words I feel INCREDIBLY lucky and blessed to have been able to pursue a dream I've had since I was a boy."
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Develin played 16 games in all but two seasons from 2013-19. He missed the entire 2015 season with a broken leg and played only two games in 2019. Other than that he was a rock as the Patriots' lead blocker in heavy run packages and an occasional target for Tom Brady, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2017.
The pinnacle for Develin arguably arrived in 2018, when he played a key role in the Patriots' rushing attack that became a machine down the stretch and through the playoffs all the way to a win in Super Bowl LIII. Develin was the lead blocker on the only touchdown of the game, a two-yard run for Sony Michel.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots' QB throughout Develin's career, was one of many to leave a heartfelt comment on his retirement announcement.
And the Patriots saluted Develin as well.
The ultimate teammate and a true leader on and off the football field. THANK YOU, @James_Develin.
Develin takes home three Super Bowl rings and a career packed with big games and bigger memories. And now the Patriots must turn the page at fullback.
They signed former Packers FB Dan Vitale earlier this offseason and also drafted versatile tight end Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech, who has the potential to play a fullback-type role. Jakob Johnson, who joined the Patriots through the International Pathway Program last year as a rookie, is under contract for 2020.
Johnson has the best chance of playing a pure blocking role, but he's no sure thing to make the roster if Vitale and Keene could prove capable enough in the run game. The latter two are more pass-catching types who play all over the field.
It'll look different at fullback for sure, but the Patriots are clearly still planning to utilize the position in the post-Develin era.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].