CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After 11 seasons left tackle, Jordan Gross is saying goodbye to football. The three-time Pro Bowler announced his retirement from the game on Wednesday.
“Tears of joy; it’s been everything I thought it would be and more,” Gross said.
Unable to hide his emotions, Jordan Gross thanked his family, teammates, fans, and the entire Panthers organization for their support during his time in Carolina.
IMAGES: Gross gets emotional during retirment speech
“It was my choice. The team wanted me back, but they were so great when I said I was done,” Gross said.
Done after 11 seasons, Gross says he will miss his teammates the most.
“You never get a chance to have so many close relationships with other guys, on a common cause. You can’t replace that,” said Gross.
He said the proudest career moment came this past year when the Panthers won the NFC South title.
Gross, 33, showed a photo slideshow of highlights from his career. He thanked team personnel including owner Jerry Richardson and head coach Ron Rivera.
The Panthers believe Gross is irreplaceable as well. A choked up Steve Smith remembered 13 seasons with him, dating back to college at Utah.
“You know, he’s a great teammate,” Smith said.
“He’s the kind of guy that leads by example. I know he’s been a huge influence on my career, not only as a player but as a person,” said Panthers center Ryan Kalil.
Kalil honored Gross with a farewell song to show his appreciation. To the tune of “Happy Trails to You,” Kalil sang “You’ll be missed on third and ten,” and got a round of applause.
On Tuesday Gross said through the team's Twitter account, "I knew that this was the time for me to step away: happy, healthy and thinking fondly about my experience. I didn't want to leave until I felt the team was back in a good position for sustained success. The team is there now."
He was drafted eighth overall by the Panthers in 2003 out of Utah and was part of the team that made it to the Super Bowl.
On Feb. 19, 2009 the Panthers signed Gross to a six-year contract, making him one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL.
Gross broke his ankle against the Falcons in November 2009 ending his season.
He was named captain of the team six times.