Leighton Vander Esch retires medically at 28; Jerry Jones 'proud' of Cowboys career.  

Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, 28, retired from the NFL on Monday after six years, but he's not doing so because he wants to.  

“I love the game of football so much, and my body won't cooperate any longer,” Vander Esch told the Cowboys website.  

Vander Esch, who has had neck problems since college, was injured in November 2023. He's retiring from the NFL due to that injury.  

"Seldom do you come across a player like Leighton, who grew up playing eight-man football only to first play the 11-man game at the major collegiate level and excel," Jones said.  

"His zeal for the game was contagious, and he made an immediate impact.  

We'll miss his grit, tenacity, motivation, determination, and football IQ. Leighton's attitude and personal attributes made him more than a great player.  

He was a leader and teammate who benefited others. Though Leighton's playing career is over, his future is bright.   

The whole Dallas Cowboys organization is thrilled that he wore the star on his helmet, thanks him, and wishes Leighton, his wife, Madalynn, and their young daughter the best."  

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