Eagles 1st-round pick Marcus Smith was fighting lack of production and fighting for playing time during his three years with the Eagles.
It turns out he was fighting a lot more than that.
Smith, the Eagles' 1st-round pick in 2014, opened up in a first-person story on The Players' Tribune about his lifelong battle with depression and anxiety and how in 2017 he nearly tried to kill himself.
"The game stole a part of me that I didn't know I'd lost," Smith wrote. "It made me suppress my feelings — it gave me tunnel vision. It wasn't until I began working with a mental health professional that I finally understood that I had been living for years with undiagnosed anxiety and depression. These feelings that attached themselves to the most pivotal moments in my life weren't real to me because I didn't have the language to name or identify them."
Smith said his issues with anxiety and depression dated back to when he had panic attacks at 8 years old. He said they continued through college at Louisville and then after the Eagles made him the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.
"Even accomplishing a life goal — getting drafted to the NFL in the first round in 2014 — didn't help me," he wrote. "I had succeeded in college despite the demons in my mind. ... Getting to the next level did nothing to rid those demons from my head. Those panic attacks and sleepless nights that I'd had in high school and college? They continued into the NFL."
Smith spent the 2014 through 2016 seasons with the Eagles before he was released and joined the Seahawks.
Smith shared a story about his near suicide attempt on the way to the Seahawks' facility in 2017 and how that led to a tearful talk with coach Pete Carroll, who urged him to put football on the back burner and get the help he needed.
He played a couple games for Washington in 2018 before retiring at 26.
"Now, for the first time in my life, I am truly mentally tough," he said. "Not because I'm 'acting like a man' but because I have rid myself of the stigmas that surround seeking help. I was ashamed at first. But now I know that I am strongest when I'm being helped by those who want the best for me."
He said he went public with his story because he hopes it can inspire others — especially athletes — to seek help when they need it.
"I want everyone to know that they can get through the toughest moments in their lives," he said. "It starts with the courage to understand that you can't do this alone."
The story is difficult and inspiring and definitely worth reading.