Vikings LB Cameron Smith retires at 24, 1 year after open-heart surgery

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Minnesota Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith announced his retirement from football on Wednesday at 24 years old.

The third-year NFL pro missed all of last season after undergoing open-heart surgery. He returned to the field on Saturday in a preseason game against the Denver Broncos, where he suffered a concussion.

He wrote in his retirement announcement that he'd asked his body to do "too much."

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"When I had open heart surgery last year, I grappled a lot with what I had been asking my body to do in order to play this great game," Smith wrote on Instagram. "Ultimately, I've decided that I've been asking for it to do too much."

COVID-19 test may have saved Smith's life

After Smith tested positive for COVID-19 last preseason, doctors discovered that he needed surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve, a condition in which he was born with two aortic-valve cusps instead of the normal three. The condition left him with a "severely enlarged" heart that required immediate treatment. 

It might not have been discovered had he not tested positive for COVID-19 and required further cardiac evaluation. 

"Although this will unfortunately end my 2020 season, it is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn’t have lasted much longer,' Smith wrote on Instagram last August. "I found this out after I tested positive for COVID and had to have further testing done as protocol. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I could really feel him on this one!"

The Vikings selected Smith in the fifth round of the 2019 draft out of USC. He retires having played in five games as a backup during his rookie season. He was a four-year starter at USC, where he tallied 354 career tackles, was named Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 honors three times. 

Cameron Smith #59 of the Minnesota Vikings watches from the bench during the second half of a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at New Era Field on August 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York.  Buffalo beats Minnesota 27 to 23.  (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Cameron Smith wrote on Wednesday that he'd asked his body "to do too much" by playing football. (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

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