A few years ago, people told Rob Sims he could play for another five years or so. Little did they know, the former Lions offensive guard was battling a lingering knee injury that contributed to his retirement on Sunday.
But Sims always knew his NFL career could come to an abrupt end. His father, Mickey, spent 1977-79 with the Cleveland Browns, and his career ended in 1981 when the Oakland Raiders cut him to keep other defensive linemen, including Howie Long.
Sims, 31, played nine professional seasons, including the last five in Detroit. Even though he realizes a few more plays off might have lengthened his career, his proudest achievement was starting all 80 games at left guard during his time with the Lions.
Now, Sims is moving onto the next chapter, one that will include more time with his family, on the golf course, fishing and in the business world.
"My retirement life, the way I see it going so far, everything is shaping up to be what I've dreamed it to be," Sims said Monday after making the formal announcement on Fox 2 Sunday night.
Knowing his knee issue could cut his career short, Sims began preparing for post-football life a couple years ago. He owns 10 rental properties in Michigan and Georgia, where he lived this past winter, and has flipped some houses, too.
And in May, he and his business partners bought Complete Title Services in Birmingham. Sims is the company president, has 12 employees and is looking forward to the challenge of running a business.
"I've got business cards and everything," he said. "It's pretty crazy."
While Sims' business life will help support his family, he'll continue to donate significantly to charity. In February, Detroit's Police Athletic League gave Sims and his wife Natalie a "Game Changer" award after the couple donated more than $80,000 the previous two years.
After the 2014 season ended, Sims said he spoke with Lions coach Jim Caldwell for about an hour about real estate, which Caldwell has used as a money-making venture, too.
Even after acquiring the title company, Sims still hoped to land another NFL job. He saw any chance of rejoining the Lions slip away after the draft when the Lions used a first-round pick on guard Laken Tomlinson and traded for guard Manny Ramirez, but he had interest from the Philadelphia Eagles, too. Yet, as he saw other longtime guards like Justin Blalock, Dan Connolly and Daryn Colledge retire, he started to realize it would be his best option.
But with his company in Birmingham and his home in Oakland County, Sims won't be leaving Detroit any time soon. And he plans to attend every Lions home game this year, though he admits it'll be tough to be a spectator.
"It'll be a feeling of accomplishment, but at the same time, it'll be tough to watch Matt (Stafford) go out there without me being out there and watch Calvin (Johnson) go out there and catch his first touchdown without me being on the field," he said.
Stafford described Sims on Monday as "a good buddy, great teammate, (who) played through some (injuries) and played extremely hard."
Before the Lions traded defensive end Robert Henderson for Sims in 2010, he spent four years with the Seattle Seahawks, playing 45 games with 33 starts. A fourth-round pick, Sims was roommates with current Lions defensive end Darryl Tapp, a second-round pick by Seattle that year, as rookies during training camp.
"That's my best friend in the league," said Tapp, who congratulated Sims after seeing the announcement.
Although Sims' knee issue flared up in 2012, he put off surgery until the 2014 offseason. Then, doctors told him the knee had more damage than expected. He struggled in the first half of last year, but started to play more like himself toward the end of the year.
Even though taking time off to heal his knee could've hurt, he said it wasn't in his "DNA" to ask for time off.
"I've never been one to make excuses," he said. "I feel like if someone pays you for a job, you do it."