Former Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. opened up about his struggles with depression during his playing days in an essay for NFL.com on Tuesday.
Smith released a piece through NFL.com today titled, “My Personal Battle With Depression,” in which he details his own struggles and offers advice to those who are going through similar situations. Despite making five Pro Bowls and earning two first-team All-Pro nods during his career, Smith questions whether he ever truly enjoyed those moments or felt “genuine delight” in his accomplishments.
“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,” Smith explains. The stories of constant self-doubt and depreciation seem familiar to anyone with a history of or connection to someone with a mental illness.
Smith began seeing a psychologist after his second season in the NFL. Smith details several specific instances where he battled those issues, including following the Panthers’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2003 NFC Championship Game and during his final year in Carolina in 2013.
Smith retired after the 2016 season and said he finally feels free now that his NFL career is over. The 39-year-old amassed 1,031 catches for 14,731 yards and 81 touchdowns during his 16 seasons in the league.