UCLA’s Martell Irby Retires From Football, Details Mental Health Struggles
After four seasons in Westwood, one Bruin is taking a step back and leaving the game behind.
Martell Irby joined UCLA football as a young running back from San Diego in 2018, and he eventually moved to defensive back in 2021. One year later, though, Irby has decided to retire from football, he announced on social media via a song he released Saturday night titled “This Is Goodbye.”
Before graduating from Morse High School (CA), Irby attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, where he was part of the school’s award-winning jazz ensemble. The SoCal native has been playing the saxophone since the fourth grade and producing his own music for years, so there aren’t too many other football players who could have announced their retirement the way Irby did.
Irby appeared in all 12 of UCLA’s games in 2021, accumulating 28 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one blocked punt. As a running back, Irby played played in another 20 games, racking up 221 yards and one touchdown on 55 carries in addition to 108 receiving yards on 13 catches for his career.
During this past spring camp, Irby was sidelined without explanation from coach Chip Kelly. Irby was initially missing entirely before eventually returning to the field in shorts and a hoodie, and he even worked his way back to individual drills in pads by the end of April.
Irby posted on Instagram on April 11 that he had gotten in a car accident several weeks earlier, right around when spring camp was getting underway.
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That wasn’t the only troubling situation Irby found himself in this spring either, as he posted a vlog-style music video on Friday that was paired with a nine-minute explanation of what he had been going through in recent weeks.
Irby detailed the mental health concerns he had been facing as of late, culminating in a story of him leaving his phone, computer, keys and camera behind to venture around Los Angeles without a destination. UCLA’s coaching staff attempted to call him earlier in the day when he didn’t show up to practice, but he said he decided not to answer and that his condition only escalated further when the staff called his mom to try and get in touch with him through her.
After making it home to his apartment several hours later, Irby went to the airport the next morning and flew home to reconnect with his family. Irby said that was where he recognized he had people in his circle who truly cared about him, and he spoke at length about the importance of being open with the people closest to him during the toughest of times.
Irby decided not long after his trip home that he would be retiring from football. He did, however, say he plans to continue working on his music career and YouTube channel, Telly TV.
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