You may remember Derrick Malone Jr. as one of the Oregon Ducks defensive stars. At Oregon, Malone helped lead the Ducks to wins in the 2011 Rose Bowl, 2012 Fiesta Bowl, 2013 Alamo Bowl and 2014 Rose Bowl, before the Ducks fell in the National Championship game to Ohio State, 42-20.
“It was amazing,” Malone Jr. told the Talkin’ Ducks podcast of his experience in Eugene. “I couldn’t imagine a better college experience like it was just so fresh, so lively. Every day was just trying to get better. Focused on how to be the best person you can be, each and every day one step at a time. I really just feel like I became a man.”
After graduating college, Malone Jr. fulfilled a childhood dream when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons following the 2015 NFL Draft. But that dream quickly dissipated after Malone Jr. failed a physical one month later after and an MRI revealed he had been playing with a fractured shoulder socket that he didn’t know about.
Following his third shoulder surgery, Malone Jr. was told he should stop playing football by a doctor. The news was a tough pill to swallow.
“At that time, when I got released, everything again came crashing down back to when I was 18 years old, a freshman at U of O,” Malone Jr. said. “I just had so many plans for my life. Like, I was so invested in buying my mom a house and living in a nice place and starting different foundations and giving back to the community with that money I’ll be making in the NFL. That’s just where my mind was at...
Malone Jr. penned a blog called “Depression, I Struggle Too,” where he detailed the emotions of not lacing up his cleats for the first time in 10 years and his battle with depression. Malone Jr. shared his powerful story with NBCS Northwest in 2019 as a apart of a nationwide project called Headstrong in support of Men’s Health Awareness Month.
“I wanted to keep up the façade that I was perfect and had everything together,” Malone said. “I wasn’t being my authentic self.”
Since hanging up his football cleats, the former Ducks inside linebacker has become a mental health advocate and now a children’s book author. Malone Jr., a 2014 graduate from the University of Oregon, wrote the book Why Don't Big Boys Cry?
Malone Jr. says his goal is help the younger generation develop tools to accept their own vulnerability and feel loved.
“When I’m doing these talks, when I’m engaging with people, a lot of the things they’ve been through are like, oh, I’ve been this way since I was a child,” Malone Jr. explained. “I need to make sure that we need to start there. We need to give them tools there because by the time 10 years past, 15 years past, they’ve already developed the tools that they need to be vulnerable or know how to ask for help or how to give constructive feedback to people or set boundaries...
To learn more about Malone Jr.’s children’s book, his battle with mental health and his time at Oregon, listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks podcast here.