Over 16 seasons in the NFL, Steve Smith Sr. developed a reputation for being one of the toughest wide receivers in the game. But he never really appreciated the accolades and stats he piled up, he says now, because he was struggling with depression throughout his playing career.
“Despite all of my achievements, I routinely felt trapped, inferior and alone,” Smith wrote this week in a first-person column on NFL.com. “This overwhelmed me internally and often left me mentally, physically and emotionally broken.”
Such struggles among pro athletes have become a regular media topic in recent days; last weekend, for example, former Philadelphia Eagles great Brian Dawkins said in his Hall of Fame induction speech that his deepest days of depression led him to consider methods of suicide that would allow his family to collect on his life insurance. For Smith, the 1,031 career catches for 14,731 yards (eighth all-time) and 81 touchdowns with the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens didn’t really register, he wrote in the column, because of his internal battles.
“I never truly enjoyed those moments,” he wrote, “never felt genuine delight in my accomplishments.” His playing persona seemed invulnerable, impossibly strong and feisty, willing to take on all defenders. But he wrote that the question “what’s wrong with me” dogged him during the “highs and lows” of his depression.
– The Washington Post