The picture Andra Davis paints is sadly familiar. Another former NFL player sitting in a room, his body and head aching as a combination of physical and mental pain causes him to contemplate ending his life.
"I've had a pistol in my hand," Davis told Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. "It wasn't because of finances. It wasn't because I didn't have anyone there to love and support me. I didn't know what was going on. I had headaches, my body hurt. I felt like nobody cared about me. I was like, 'Man, I don't really care if I'm here or not.' "
The 36-year-old played 10 NFL seasons, ending his career after a two-year stint with the Buffalo Bills in 2011. His career was far longer than most, but he found himself stuck in a post-football malaise. He wasn't only losing the chance to play the game he loved; he was also losing the locker room camaraderie and feeling of importance that comes with being a star athlete.
"When you're playing, everybody loves you, everyone calls you, you're the savior, the next best thing," Davis said. "Then when you're done it's like, 'Who are you?' The party's over. The lights in the stadium are off."
A 2002 fifth-round pick, Davis recorded 786 tackles, 12 sacks and nine interceptions during his career. He posted 100-plus tackles in three of his first five seasons with the Cleveland Browns and received the Bills' Ed Block Courage Award in 2011.
Well-liked nearly everywhere he went, Davis nonetheless faced the harsh reality that you're only as good as your recent performance. The Browns restructured his five-year contract extension less than halfway through, and he spent his final three seasons bouncing from Denver to Buffalo.
"As long as you play, there's going to come a day when you're not their guy, you'll get older, you'll lose a step," Davis said. "Adjusting to that and life after football are two of the hardest things about football."
While he was never in dire financial straits, Davis said he suffered from severe depression and needed counseling sessions to help him transition to his post-football life. He's since gone back to school to receive his MBA and began moving past his playing career.
"I come down here and look around and think about where I came from, the small town, and to see all the people," Davis said. "It's the journey. Everyone has the same journey, but different paths."
All too often we hear of players who sink deep into depression and can't find their way out. Davis' story, while still harrowing and concerning given all we know about the long-term damage football can do to a person's body, has a positive outcome. Here's hoping more stories start trending in this direction as players get help with their post-football transition.
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