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.”