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VOL. 37 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 15, 2013

Former Vol Ainge, others take struggles public

By Linda Bryant

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Although it’s not uncommon for NFL players to support efforts that raise awareness about mental health in general, going public about an individual’s struggle with mental illness is a rare occurrence in the league.

Here are four players who have been public about their battles with emotional disorders.

Erik Ainge

The former University of Tennessee quarterback is well known in the state. Ainge, 26, who is also a former QB for the New York Jets, has been forthcoming about his dependence on prescription meds, alcohol, cocaine and heroin. After getting help for his addictions, Ainge was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He now lives in Knoxville and works for Tennessee Sports Network. Ainge is now host of his own talk show on Tennessee Sports Radio. He is active in raising awareness about chemical dependency and mood disorders.

Ricky Williams

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ricky Williams, who recently retired after 11 years in the NFL, went public with his social anxiety disorder in 2005. Williams, 35, was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Williams’ life stabilized when he got treatment for his conditions, and he now is an advocate for early intervention and a holistic lifestyle. He also runs the Ricky Williams Foundation.

Brandon Marshall

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall hit rock bottom in 2011 after a violent domestic incident at his home in Miami. He got treatment and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which has symptoms of poor relationships, impulsivity and emotional turbulence. Marshall has since become dedicated to raising money to help others with the disease at his non-profit organization, the Brandon Marshall Foundation.

Ray Lucas

Former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas is a recovering prescription drug addict and has struggled with depression. Lucas says chronic pain from 14 surgeries on his back, elbows, shoulders and neck exacerbated his addiction. At the depths of his addiction he stopped taking care of himself and consumed up to 800 pills a month. Lucas is now dedicated to helping recovering addicts.