Advice from the Great One helping Rams’ Andrew Whitworth with retirement decision

Andrew Whitworth gestures as fans sit in stands in the background
Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth celebrates after the Rams’ 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

One of Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth’s role models has been Wayne Gretzky, and the hockey legend continues to be one in the twilight of Whitworth’s career.

Last week, Whitworth spoke with Gretzky after the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI win, the four-time Stanley Cup champion telling the oldest tackle in NFL history “there’s only one thing better than winning one, and that’s winning two.”

Walking to a suite as a guest at NASCAR’s Wise Power 400 race in Fontana on Sunday, Whitworth said he’s now reflecting on an additional piece of wisdom from Gretzky — a conversation they had a few years ago, when Whitworth first was contemplating hanging up his cleats.


“He told me a story about making sure that I make teams rip the jersey off and not take it off,” Whitworth said, “because it’s one of the best things I ever get to do.”

Whitworth’s potential retirement has been a hot topic amid the post-Super Bowl elation, as the 16-year veteran repeatedly hinted he’d step away from the game after the championship, most recently stating he’s “leaning towards probably being done.”

Whitworth, 40, didn’t address retirement Sunday, instead saying he was taking time away from football to clear his head.

“The more you involve yourself in different areas, other sports, just fill up your time — it gives you a chance to check out,” Whitworth said. “When you come back to that decision, you’ve got a true feeling of where you’re at.”

Part of that checking-out process was his appearance as a grand marshal at the Wise Power 400, during which Whitworth brought along a surprise guest — Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Before the race, the two joked about giving the command to start engines.

Albert Pujols will serve as honorary pace car driver and Andrew Whitworth will be grand marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway.

“It’s just like running plays,” Whitworth said. “We’ve got a couple rehearsals in, we’re ready. We’re just going to wing it and let it happen.”

“We talked about it about 30 seconds ago out there,” Stafford clarified, to laughter.

Whitworth’s second date with his wife, Melissa, came during a visit to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Stafford also went to a couple Talladega races during his time at the University of Georgia and said he “fell in love” with NASCAR there.

Stafford was rooting for Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, a Georgia native.

“And he’s rocking the No. 9 so I gotta pull for him,” said Stafford, whose jersey number is the same.