We’ve heard from many people around the football world in the wake of Junior Seau’s death, but Brandon Marshall’s response still stands out.
The Bears receiver wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times in which he discusses Seau’s death (along with those of Dave Duerson and Kenny McKinley) in light of his own battles with mental health issues. Marshall has been very open about his own struggle with mental illness and he uses the op-ed as a way to urge other football players battling depression or other issues to get help before it is too late. Marshall believes players are conditioned not to show their emotions from a young age and that they fear being stigmatized if they seek help for their problems.
For many of these players, the problems become more acute when they stop playing. There have been numerous reports about the financial and relationship difficulties that players face after retirement as well as the ever-increasing focus on the impact head injuries take as players get older. Marshall applauds those efforts, but points out that CTE can only be diagnosed at autopsy and thinks that more needs to be done to help players when they’re alive.
“Looking at the situation with Seau and other cases with retired athletes, I think our focus should be more on why the transition seems to be so hard after football. As athletes, we go through life getting praised and worshipped and making a lot of money. Our worlds and everything in them — spouses, kids, family, religion and friends — revolve around us. We create a world where our sport is our life and makes us who we are. When the game is taken away from us or when we stop playing, the shock of not hearing the praise or receiving the big bucks often turns out to be devastating. The blueprint I am creating for myself will help not only other athletes, it will help suffering people all over.”
The whole thing is quite thoughtful, candid and worth a moment of your time.