Even while putting together a Hall of Fame-worthy career, former NFL and University of Utah star Steve Smith experienced depression and disappointment.
In a revealing NFL.com column, Smith explained his struggles with mental health issues and how he’s overcoming them.
“Despite all of my achievements, I routinely felt trapped, inferior and alone. This overwhelmed me internally and often left me mentally, physically and emotionally broken. Thinking back to when I experienced these emotions most significantly, several specific moments come to mind,” Smith wrote.
“One goes all the way back to the 2003 NFC Championship Game, when we, the Carolina Panthers, defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. I should have been elated that we were headed to the organization's first Super Bowl in its ninth year of existence. Yet, I couldn't get over the fact that we didn't perform well statistically in the 14-3 win, and hadn't effectively thrown the ball, with just 101 passing yards in that game. I was so upset I couldn't even get myself to hold the conference trophy. We earned the opportunity to become world champions, but in that victory, I felt defeated.
“Generally, throughout much of my life, unhappiness, constant self-criticism and an inability to let old blunders go weighed so heavily on my mind. I can recall hundreds of these moments, on and off the gridiron, when I felt inept. It really took a toll on my mental state.”
Smith said it wasn’t until after he retired that he was able to gain control of his mental health.
"I couldn't quiet the noise and negative thoughts in my mind. It wasn't until I stepped away from the game at the end of the 2016 NFL season that I really began to take ownership and understand my personal journey with depression."
Smith said he still has demons but knows how to cope with them now.
"And one thing has become abundantly clear: The best thing I ever did for my well-being was to seek help. I needed someone to help me comprehend how my mind deals with disappointment, grief, failure, etc. — and most importantly, how to prohibit that critical voice inside my head from defining who I am on an everyday basis."
Smith shared this message in hopes that others would seek help if they need it.
"Ask for help. Stop trying to deal with these serious matters alone," he wrote. "You’re not alone. Believe me."