HEADSTRONG

Headstrong: Lance Briggs discusses concussions in pro football: 'It’s a part of all of our lives'

Headstrong: Lance Briggs discusses concussions in pro football: 'It’s a part of all of our lives'

When Lance Briggs entered the NFL, rookies weren’t thinking much about concussions, head trauma and the overall health of their brains.

The first priority was getting your career and life together after being a broke college kid simply trying to make ends meet.

“There’s a lot of mental challenges for every player,” Briggs said. “When you get drafted you’re a broke college kid so you’re not necessarily thinking about ‘How my brain going to be once I start playing this game?’ You’re going from trying to make ends meet and making sure that your rent is paid on time and your phone bill is paid and making sure you’re paying your part of the utilities. Now you’re playing football and you’re able to get your own place.”

Briggs played 12 years for the Bears and was a seven-time Pro Bowler. He said mental toughness was “one of the key ingredients to surviving in football.”

As the years went on and he started to see more examples of concussions, he started to think more about the risks.

“You don’t think about that until you’re in the back end (of your career) or if you’re a guy who’s taken off the field a lot for concussions,” Briggs said. “You start seeing guys left and right and you think about the position that you play and you think about all the contact that you’ve had and the role that you play in the head game.”

No matter how tough players were in their careers, Briggs admitted to seeing it get to anyone.

“It’s a lot of physical wear and tear on your brain,” he said. “As we’ve seen in the past there have been some that have taken their own lives and there are a lot of men who have struggled.

“Whether you recognize it or you don’t recognize it, it’s a part of all of our lives.”

Watch more from Briggs in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”

Headstrong: Torri Stuckey turns a dark experience into a positive for others

Headstrong: Torri Stuckey turns a dark experience into a positive for others

Torri Stuckey was in a dark place the summer before his senior season with Northwestern football.

He began his career with the Wildcats as a running back and was sporadically used in two years at the position. He then moved to safety. Entering his senior season in 2003, he felt he was ready for his breakthrough, but it wasn't coming easy.

“Northwestern, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Stuckey said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best so that kind of culminated in some dark moments.”

Stuckey wrote a letter addressed to his mom that was going to be a suicide note if things didn’t go his way.

“Going into my senior year I really felt like I had done everything to earn that role, but me and my head coach didn’t really see eye-to-eye on a lot of things,” Stuckey said. “I really felt like at that moment when I was in camp, after everything that I had done, that I was just not being given an opportunity to start. I felt like there was nothing I could do at that point. That triggered something in me that I’ve never felt since. I honestly feel like I snapped.”

In the letter, he wrote “I made a pact with myself, I’m either leaving this camp as a starter or not leaving at all. I guess it was the latter.”

He did end up winning the starting job and helped Northwestern make a bowl game for the first time in three seasons. Things ended positively at Northwestern for Stuckey, but he never forgot how he felt that summer.

“I wrote the letter because, looking at it in retrospect, I was suffering from a deep state of depression,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey has since used that feeling as fuel to make a positive influence on others. He now works with teenagers and kids at self-help workshops and speaks at schools. He wrote a self-help book for teenagers and young adults, Impoverished State of Mind: Thinking Outside da Block.

“My efforts and my mission is really just to uplift people, to encourage them and to hopefully use myself as an example to say, ‘Hey if I can do it, I’m nobody special,’ so can you,” Stuckey said.

See more of Stuckey’s story in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”

Headstrong: Emphasizing mental health in the physical world of professional fighting

Headstrong: Emphasizing mental health in the physical world of professional fighting

MMA fighter Jose Torres has had a controversial career, but he maintains that mental health is a big part of the success and failure of the sport.

“It’s crazy because I never thought mental health was an important thing in sports,” Torres said. “The reason why I say that is because it’s a physical sport. I’m punching you in the head, I’m punching you here, elbow, kicking you, whatever the case may be.”

Though dominant at times in the ring, Torres would fight his own terror and demons outside of it. He had to learn how to manage the stress of performance and expectation before the competition.  

He said nerves never left him before a fight and that’s something that should never go away.

“If you’re not mentally prepared for anything, you’re going to go in there and freeze,” Torres said. “Every single first fight that I had, I was terrified. I was nervous.”

Now, Torres tries to spread the message of the importance of mental health as a mental coach for other fighters. See more from Torres in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”