Rolando McClain walked away from the NFL at age 23 in May because of fears that his life was headed down a destructive path.
In an ESPN The Magazine story available in print on Friday, McClain said he saw himself on a self-destructive course similar to former NFL players Aaron Hernandez and Jovan Belcher.
McClain said as he watched television coverage of Hernandez being taken from his house in handcuffs by police, he feared he would end up the same way. Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder.
"I was feeling like Aaron Hernandez or something," the linebacker told the magazine. "Like I just wanted to kill somebody."
A former No. 1 draft pick by the Oakland Raiders, McClain signed with the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason but left the team less than a month later. At that point, he recognized that his life was spinning out of control.
He had been arrested three times in Decatur, Ala., his hometown, during a 16-month period. The Raiders had released him in April.
So McClain, now 24, returned to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he went to college at Alabama, to escape the temptations of life in the NFL and attempt to get his life back on track.
If he hadn't made the move, McClain said, he would have "ended up in a cage like an animal."
McClain acknowledged that he is dealing with anger management issues but said he is not ready to attend therapy sessions. He wants to finish his degree and hopes to return to the NFL next year.