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Former North Carolina offensive lineman Ryan Hoffman is homeless and battling mental illness.
details Hoffman's search for money and places to sleep, his lack of short term memory and his battles with addiction.
He said he started having dangerous thoughts when he was a senior at North Carolina in 1997. He started putting things in plastic bags around his residence to remember where they were. He wasn't drafted in the NFL draft and things spiraled after college.
After graduation, Hoffman moved into his father’s house in Florida, jobless and without direction. He struggled to sleep. He complained of headaches and dizziness and of hearing loud noises like shotgun blasts inside his head and of seeing flashing lights. In college, Hoffman’s worst offenses were speeding tickets and fishing without a license. Now he was getting into fistfights on a regular basis, getting arrested, stealing, using marijuana, abusing Valium.
Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They prescribed Xanax and Adderall, and diagnosed a laundry list of psychological disorders: depression, schizoaffective disorder, manic depression, borderline personality disorder, anger impulse control disorder.
Soon, Hoffman was divorced and he couldn't hold a job.
His sister thinks Hoffman could have CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE is caused after repeated head trauma and has been found in the brains of former football players. However, CTE can't be diagnosed until after death. It was found in the brains of former NFL linebackers Jovan Belcher and Junior Seau. Belcher killed his girlfriend before he committed suicide at the Kansas City Chiefs practice complex and Seau also killed himself.
“That’s exactly when I thought: ‘Oh my God, football. Football did this to Ryan,’ ” Kira Soto told the Times. Their mother, Irene, felt relieved that the family finally had an answer. Their father, Chad, said that while mental illness runs in the family and could have contributed to Ryan’s decline, he also believes football has permanently damaged his son.
Hoffman says he remembers having one (diagnosed) concussion in college but also details a time in high school when he threw up multiple times after a game. As we know, the concussion protocols being developed today weren't even a thought back in Hoffman's playing days. It's why there's currently lawsuits accusing the NCAA of not protecting its players.
Even if Hoffman was to get a part of a possible settlement from the NCAA regarding head injuries, it wouldn't be much. And besides, could he even collect it? He's lost, among other things, his government ID. He hasn't gotten a new one.
“Those are the players who are being left behind in this whole concussion debate and, unfortunately for some of them, it’s a life-or-death issue,” said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, the newly formed college players union. “But even if the N.C.A.A. paid a billion-dollar settlement, it may not be enough to help all the college players suffering right now. There are just too many of them.”
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