Sterling Sharpe – Retired at 28 in 1994
In the 1994 season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe was named to his third straight Pro Bowl, having caught a league-leading 18 touchdown passes (along with 90 receptions for 1,119 yards). In the two years prior, Sharpe caught 108 passes in 1992 — breaking the single-season receptions record set by Art Monk of the Washington Redskins in 1984 — and then 112 passes in 1993, breaking his own record that he just set.
But in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, Sharpe’s head was jarred back on a block, and worsened the following week during Green Bay’s regular season finale. The Packers team doctors discovered what they called “an abnormal loosening of the first and second cervical vertebrae,” and Sharpe was advised to end his football career. Sharpe was only 28 years old at the time, and in the prime of his career. He missed the eventual Super Bowl victory by the Packers just two seasons later. If not for the injury that ended his career, Sharpe would have ranked as one of the all-time greats in Packers history.