GREEN BAY – Former safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix admits he misses playing football, but in retiring as a Packer on Friday, he feels he couldn't ask for a better next step in life.
Clinton-Dix is working as the director of player development at his alma mater, Alabama, the national powerhouse still led by his college coach, Nick Saban.
Clinton-Dix was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this past fall for a 10-year reunion of the Crimson Tide's 2012 national championship team when a discussion with a former academic advisor led to a post-playing door being opened.
"So that's where my life is headed is into coaching and helping these kids … making the right choices as they get ready for their career heading to the NFL, and other avenues they want to endure after football is over with," said Clinton-Dix, who spoke to the Green Bay media from a hotel room in New Orleans, where Alabama is preparing to play Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl on Saturday.
A first-round draft pick (No. 21 overall) by the Packers in 2014, Clinton-Dix played four-plus seasons in Green Bay. He was named to the PFWA's All-Rookie Team in 2014 and then earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors in 2016 when he led the team with a career-high five interceptions.
Before being traded to Washington in the middle of the 2018 season, Clinton-Dix played in 71 games (65 starts) for the Packers and recorded 14 interceptions. He added three more picks in seven postseason contests.
He finished out the '18 season with Washington, played in '19 for the Bears and played his last two NFL games for the Raiders in 2021. Over the 2020-21 seasons, he also spent time in the offseason or on the practice squads with Dallas, San Francisco and Denver.
He found himself becoming a veteran mentor as a practice-squad player, so joining a coaching staff felt like a natural next step, even if it was difficult to officially walk away from playing the game just as he was turning 30.
"It was part of this opportunity I had to work back here at Alabama, but also just kind of reading the writing on the wall," he said of his final decision. "Sometimes things don't happen that you want to happen, and you don't get to dictate your future as far as playing ball.
"It was hard. It definitely wasn't easy. I still wanted to work out, still wanted to play ball. But there comes a time in your life where you have to make those decisions, and hopefully it's the right one and you don't look back and think wow, I wish I coulda or wish I woulda. That's kind of where I am in life. I'm grateful."
He appreciates that injuries didn't force him to retire, and having experienced life in other NFL organizations, he was reminded how special his time was in Green Bay, even though he says he never took it for granted.
"This is the team that gave me the opportunity to grow, create resources and invited me in as family," he said. "I wanted to be a Packer forever."
He still watches NFL games every week, keeping up with former teammates and friends who are still playing. He stays connected as best he can that way, and his new career path gives him another avenue as well.
"Hell yeah, I miss football, man," he said. "And the beautiful thing about it is that I still get to be around ball. I think it's just being a part of a team is what I feel like is important, and being able to help others.
"When I go to practice with these guys at Alabama, I still do a little backpedaling and working out with these guys so I'm still around the game, I still love it, and it'll always be a part of me for sure."