Soon-to-be Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins recently spoke openly about having suicidal thoughts during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In a conversation with Derrick Gunn of NBC Sports Philadelphia published Monday, Dawkins said he was in a dark place at the beginning of his career:
"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."
Dawkins also said he turned to alcohol as a means of coping with depression.
Dawkins discussed how the pressures of being a newlywed, a new father and an NFL player caused him to abuse alcohol:
"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."
Dawkins said his wife and Thomas eventually helped him get the treatment he needed.
Now, at the age of 44, Dawkins believes he is much better equipped to handle the struggles that come with depression: "That feeling is always there to this day. It's just waiting for you to feel so sorry for yourself that you can come back down and start having those same feelings again. My faith is strong enough now that I can tell that part of me to shut up and that's now who I am."
Dawkins spent 16 seasons in the NFL with the Eagles and Denver Broncos, during which time he was a nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro first-team selection.
In 224 regular-season games, he finished with 37 interceptions, 36 forced fumbles and 26 sacks.
Dawkins is part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 that will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday.