Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst opened up about his dark, dark past earlier this offseason.
Four years ago, while at the University of South Carolina, Hurst attempted suicide, he told Chris Porter of First Coast News.
“I woke up in the hospital,” he said. “I didn’t know what happened. I had to have a friend fill me in. Apparently, I had been drinking and went home to my apartment and cut my wrist. I laid in a puddle of blood and one of my friends found me and called 911.”
When Hurst woke up, he was handcuffed to the bed so he couldn’t cut himself again. It was at that moment that he knew he had to get help.
“If I had a gun that night, I probably would have killed myself,” Hurst said. “I’m glad I only had a knife. It’d be a totally different story.”
Hurst shared a photo of the scar that’s still on his wrist to Dan Pompei of The Atheltic:
Hurst was sure of only one thing that night. “For some reason,” he says, “God was giving me a second chance.”
Hurst’s history with mental health dates back to 2013, when he was a promising pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. But he suddenly developed the “yips,” a performance anxiety disorder that affected him so badly that pitches would sail over batters’ heads. He went from throwing 97 to not being able to throw the ball straight.
His battle with depression led him to alcohol and drugs. He said he drank every day and would spend weeks at a time sitting in a dark room watching TV by himself.
“The goal was always just to get blacked out,” he said. “Anything, Xanax or cocaine, that made that feeling go away, I tried it. Not the brightest of ideas I ever had.”
After his suicide attempt, Hurst stopped drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
“I was pretty disappointed in myself, the decisions I made that led me there,” he says. “I was drinking, doing all this stuff, living life in the fast lane. I sat there, looked at the walls, and made a promise to myself. I was going to change my life. I wasn’t going to keep doing the things I was doing. I knew if I kept doing what I was doing, I was going to end up dead. I didn’t want to disappoint my family.”
Now Hurst is using his platform, and revealing the full depth of his struggles, to help others in need. He has spoken at high schools and colleges, talking about the need for the younger generation to address mental health.
“I don’t have the answers to fix all of this,” Hurst said, via ESPN. “It’s still a trial and error to this day, but I will say I have much more good days than I do bad days. I’m not this superhero that’s portrayed on TV. I’m a regular person.”
Hurst enters the 2020 season with a new team after Baltimore traded him to Atlanta earlier this offseason.
He’s worked out with new quarterback Matt Ryan and Ryan has only had good things to say.
“I’ve been incredibly impressed with Hayden’s work ethic,” Ryan said. “He’s got great speed, great athleticism. Wants to be a great player … the effort, the attitude all of that stuff is there. He fits in well with the group of guys we have.”
“He is for sure one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I’ve ever played with,” Ryan said. “He’s a mismatch problem, he’s going to create separation and win in different ways than those guys did.”
The full conversation between Hurst and Dan Pompei of The Atheltic can be found here (with subscription).
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