Earlier this month, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott bravely opened up about the emotions he faced following his brother’s suicide and his mother’s battle with colon cancer.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cowboys star admitted that the huge burden had taken a toll on him and he was struggling with depression.
"All throughout this quarantine, I started experiencing emotions I've never felt before – anxiety for the main one," he said in a taped interview with “In Depth With Graham Bensinger.” "And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I started experiencing depression. I didn't necessarily know what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn't been sleeping at all."
In wake of Prescott’s heartfelt and poignant confession, he’s inspired more people to open up about their struggles with mental health.
Russell Wilson is one of several NFL players to show their support for Prescott’s vulnerability. Ahead of the Cowboys-Seahawks matchup in Week 3, Seattle’s franchise quarterback commended Prescott for his candidness.
“I love Dak’s courage, because most men are afraid to talk about some of the things that they have gone through, and the challenges, especially in terms of mental health,” Wilson said. “He’s a tremendous football player. I think a lot of kids, a lot of people look up to him all over the country I’m sure. To be able to talk about some of the things that he’s gone through, personally with his family, and he’s gone through some tough things, I couldn’t imagine.
Ahead of NBC Sports’ release of the documentary Headstrong in November, Wilson sat down with us to share his thoughts on why mental health is so important. The five-time Pro Bowler faced several challenges growing up: His family didn’t have much financially, he was told he’d be too short to be a quarterback, and in 2010, his dad, Harrison Wilson III, died from diabetes complications.
“You don’t have to be sick to get better,” Wilson said in November. "No matter how successful you are or what status you are – a top quarterback or if you’re trying to overcome cancer – the best thing that we can do is have positive language.”
Wilson knows Prescott’s statement is bigger than football. It’s about overcoming.
“I know this offseason’s been tough on him, probably spiritually, emotionally, and everything else, and he’s held his head high and been able to be a great football player in the midst of it all," Wilson said.
Wilson isn’t the only NFL player to applaud Prescott for speaking out. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was enlightened by Prescott’s bravery, and commended him for furthering the conversations around mental health awareness.
Thought I’d ask Aaron Rodgers today about mental health, specifically what he thinks the value of people like him and Dak Prescott talking about their headspace, happiness and mental well-being has in destigmatizing talking about that stuff.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 23, 2020
His full answer: pic.twitter.com/OtZ4kN1915
Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst, who hit rock bottom when he attempted suicide four years ago in college, approached Prescott following Atlanta and Dallas’ Week 2 matchup to thank him for making a difference.
"Hey, I've got a lot of respect for what you did, came out and talked about. Me and my mom have a foundation about suicide prevention. Respect the hell out of you for talking about it, man.”
Prescott suggested the two collaborate one day, to which Hurst replied, "Absolutely."
Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 22, 2020
But not everyone showed compassion for the Cowboys QB. FS1’s Skip Bayless recently had some disturbing comments in the wake of Prescott’s interview.
“I don’t have sympathy for him going public with ‘I got depressed’ and ‘I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn’t even go work out.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team.”
Fox later issued a statement condemning Bayless' remarks.
When the Seahawks and Cowboys take the field on Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PT, Prescott will once again show that he’s much more than just a leader on the field. He’s also a leader in a greater community where for far too long mental health issues have been ignored.
Wilson will be watching.
“I think what really shows strength is the ability to overcome and also, have the courage enough to talk through it,” Wilson said. “I think a lot of people don’t like to talk about issues or things. To be able to do that and have the ability to communicate that so eloquently like he did, it’s honorable.”