After five uneven seasons in the NFL that ended abruptly this August when he was released by the Bears, safety Tom Zbikowski is retiring to become a Chicago firefighter.
But Zbikowski, who starred at Notre Dame, admitted to the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh that his heart wasn't in the game when the Bears let him go.
“No, not really,'' he said. “It hasn't been for awhile. Football got old to me. … I enjoyed my first two years in the NFL because it was a challenge. I was playing with the best. But after awhile you don't care whether you win or lose because you're still getting a paycheck. I enjoyed high school and college much more.''
Zbikowski spent the first four years of his NFL career in Baltimore before signing with Indianapolis in 2012. But that one year with the Colts was his most unfulfilling as a professional and Zbikowski drank heavily to deal with it.
“I'm the only guy who can drink six beers, then spar 10 rounds on the same day,'' said Zbikowski, who is also an accomplished boxer.
In fact, it got to the point where Zbikowski was drinking the night before games and compared it to a superstition. His ideal mix, according to Haugh: "Four glasses of scotch and four Guinnesses. Of the 64 NFL games Zbikowski participated, he estimated at least 12 were played with a massive hangover."
“Get a little messed up, sneak a girl into your room, feel on top of the world,'' Zbikowski said. “I had some of my best games off of benders -- some of my worst too. My two best seasons ever were 2005 (at Notre Dame) and 2009 (in Baltimore) when I was the most out of control drinking, so I thought, hey, maybe I should go back to that.''
All the drinking led to Zbikowski getting "fat." To drop weight, he took what he called a "water pill" -- which also happened to be banned by the NFL. He was suspended four games, which probably played a role in the Bears' decision to part ways.
Zbikowski says he no longer binge drinks or relies on painkillers, and he expects to begin Chicago Fire Dept. academy training next month.
“I've had an extremely blessed life and I saved three-quarters of my money, so I can do whatever I want and I want to be of service to a community,'' said Zbikowski, who would be a third-generation firefighter. “Firemen show up in scary situations. They're symbols of pride, of faith, of what's good in society. I like to live dangerously.''