Brian Dawkins reveals career-long battle with depression

Set to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, defensive back Brian Dawkins recently revealed to an NBC Sports Philadelphia reporter that he battled depression, including thoughts of suicide, throughout his career.

‘I went through a real deep, dark depression’

Reporter Derrick Gunn spent some time with Dawkins, who spent 13 years of his 16-year NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles, at his home in Colorado, and wrote that Dawkins’ shared his struggle.

It began, he said, in his rookie year. He was a newlywed, a new dad to a colicky son, and a new NFL player who was constantly being pushed by his position coach.

Former Eagles and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, center, revealed he’s battled depression for much of his adult life. (AP)
Former Eagles and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, center, revealed he’s battled depression for much of his adult life. (AP)

“When you’re a newlywed, that’s tough in itself. You have your way of doing things and your spouse has their way, and there are some things that clash in between,” Dawkins said. “But I also had issues growing up period with my anger issues. Not being able to deal with some of the things like the extra energy I had.

“I had troubles channeling that anger in the right direction. They would come out in outbursts, and because I’m a quiet individual, and as men, we don’t talk … anyway, I talked even less, and so all that stuff was bounding up. When you don’t have answers, it comes out in different ways. During that first year, I had a lot of pressures from family members, being a newlywed, my son, Brian, was born.

“We’re new parents with a colicky baby, so there’s no sleep, and then, there were pressures on the job. Emmitt Thomas (his defensive coordinator) was constantly on me pushing me to be better because he saw more in me than I was putting out, to be honest.

“Overall, I didn’t have any outlets, and so I began to drink a little more than I needed to, and that quickly spiraled down into depression. I went through a real dark, deep depression. Alcohol was a tremendous crutch. There were times I didn’t even want to be around my family, didn’t want to be around my son.

“I just wanted to be in a dark room by myself with nobody. My room, I won’t say was a frequent occurrence, but it was something I would do. My faith back then wasn’t that strong, so I listened to the other voice in my head, and that’s where suicidal thoughts came in, and then actually planning out how I would go about it in such a way that Connie (his wife) and my son would get the money from my insurance policy.”

‘The pain was tremendous’

It was his wife, Connie, and Thomas who nudged Dawkins to get help, and eventually he began seeing a therapist and taking medication for depression. They helped, but Dawkins ultimately needed something more.

“The pain I was feeling was tremendous,” Dawkins said. “But then, I found a way to control it. I rededicated my life. Being able to deal with that through my renewed faith. Going to more and more bible studies. Giving my life over to the Lord, completely helped me go on to become the athlete I became and the person I became.”

Dawkins continues to lean heavily on his faith, he said, to help him push aside those times when he’s feeling sorry for himself.

Rare safety in the Hall of Fame

Just the ninth career safety to be selected for the Hall (others, like Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson, began their careers as cornerbacks and shifted to safety), Dawkins was a nine-time Pro Bowler and was chosen first-team All-Pro five times.

He spent the final three years of his career with the Broncos.

The Class of 2018 enshrinement ceremony takes place on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

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