FRISCO, Texas – The same competitive spirit that fueled Travis Frederick's comeback from a debilitating illness also told him it was time to move on from football.
The Cowboys' long-time center announced his retirement in a lengthy statement Monday afternoon, nearly four months after he started all 16 games in a successful comeback from Guillain-Barre syndrome – an auto-immune disease attacking the nervous system – that sidelined him the entire 2018 season.
In 2019, Frederick made his fifth Pro Bowl in six healthy seasons, tying Andre Gurode for the most ever by a Cowboys center. Yet the 29-year-old revealed it was "a difficult year" for him professionally.
"Each day I faced a struggle: I could no longer perform at my highest level," he said in his statement. "Playing 'well' is not what I expect of myself and is not what my teammates deserve.
"Because of this, I know my days as a football player are done. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my career, and I walk away with my head held high."
Long considered one of the NFL's premier offensive linemen, Frederick has been the heartbeat of the Cowboys' decorated offensive line since 2013, responsible for line calls and pre-snap adjustments for the entire five-man group. The former 31st overall draft pick teamed with left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin to give the Cowboys a trio of perennial Pro Bowlers for the past half-decade.
Yet Frederick faced the toughest opponent of his career in August 2018. After a dealing with stinger-like symptoms throughout training camp in Oxnard, Calif., a battery of tests revealed Frederick's GBS diagnosis.
He spent the entire 2018 season with the Cowboys' athletic training staff recovering from the rare but treatable illness. Eventually he regained the strength in his extremities that previously had felt numb and tingly. That season he never missed a team meeting, practice or game, always there supporting his teammates.
"I had to prepare for my career potentially ending," he said. "Some players fear life when it no longer revolves around football; the moment one stops playing the sport to which one's identity and dreams have been tied to for 20 years. After months of contemplation, I not only accepted that moment, but I also, surprisingly found myself welcoming the moment. I was ready for the next stage of my life; however, the competitor in me would not accept going out without returning to the field."
Frederick did just that last year. He inspired his teammates. And he did play well. The Cowboys' offensive line allowed only 23 sacks on quarterback Dak Prescott, the lowest total of his four-year career. Running back Ezekiel Elliott finished second in the league in rushing yards (1,357) and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
But Frederick is ready for "the next chapter of life" with his wife and two children.
His Cowboys legacy includes as many off-field successes. He's a multiple-time nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. His Blocking Out Hunger Foundation provides support for children in the Dallas area who struggle with hunger. The foundation's Nourish2Flourish program has provided over 100,000 meals to over 6,400 children over the years.
"As a contributor to our community, a family man and a professional person, he has distinguished himself as an exemplary representative of this organization," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement. "And for the rest of his life, when his name is mentioned in the same sentence with the Dallas Cowboys, he will be lifting the standards of excellence and esteem that has characterized the history of our proud franchise."