In my heart, I knew exactly what I was about to do when I walked to the top of the Fort Duquesne Bridge.
I didn’t want to kill myself, though.
That’s the greatest misconception about suicide. Everybody thinks people actually want to go through with it. No, nobody genuinely wants to kill themselves.
But I did want the pain to stop, and this was the only way I knew how to do it.
I stared at the water below on the side of the bridge, thinking this was it.
This is where my story ends today.
No more pain, no more disappointment, no more heartbreak—I could finally rest after it was all over.
I took a deep breath as everything that led to that moment flashed through to my mind.
But then… I slipped.
When football was taken away
To truly understand what happened, you need to understand why I was on that bridge in the first place.
Life was hard.
And I’m not just talking about life in college, either.
So many moments from my childhood and teenage years led to my decision that day. Quite frankly, man, I just always felt like I was all alone.
My dad was around, and he spent a lot of time trying to be there for me as a father, but he also had his own personal issue to take care of. My mom, on the other hand, was working two and sometimes even three jobs just to make sure I maintained.
It was just a situation of their circumstances becoming my circumstances, you know?
I lost my stepmother when I was seven years old and just witnessed death in so many different ways that it started to shape me before I ever accepted my offer to play football at Pittsburgh.
I never talked to anyone about the things I was going through. Like most men in America at this age, I was convinced I could handle it all on my own.
Well, that eventually caught up to me.
For so long, football was the one thing I used as a means of escaping my problems. But when I got injured, I reached a tipping point. My life was falling apart.
I sprained my PCL and LCL, and just like that, I could no longer run from my problems. There was no way to escape. Those feelings of loneliness and that deep, dark pit of depression sucked me right back in.
With football gone, I started to feel like I was worthless.
And that’s when I thought about ending it.
A voice in my head
Standing on top of the bridge that day was my fourth suicide attempt.
I stood up there and looked down at the water before slipping and realizing I might not make this one. That whole moment sort of woke me up.
And then I heard this voice in my head saying, “You’re not ready. Let’s not do this.”
I’m aware of what this sounds like, but I swear — in my heart, I know that God was there with me that day.
Since that moment, I’ve become a warrior of life and vowed I would never let myself get to that point again.
I made “Battle Back” my slogan because of everything I’ve gone through.
Life isn’t easy for anybody, you know?
I’m a competitive person, and from now on, I started looking inward and saw all of this as a competition against myself. And I freaking loved it.
It would be me vs. me from here on out!
And if that’s the case, well, then I might as well whoop my own ass.
No longer in control
I was in complete control of whatever happened up there on that bridge. But what happens when you’re not in control? What happens when you’re thrown into a situation where you have no choice over whether you live or die?
That’s what happened to me in the ninth game against the University of Miami in my sophomore year. I caught a pass across the middle of the field and took a hit.
A hit that resulted in a collapsed lung and having to stay in the ICU for four days.
Looking back, I’d say that moment was the most pivotal one in my entire life. I was playing with my life at first, but when that injury happened, I had no control over whether my life was here or not.
It opened my eyes.
Just as those same feelings of worthlessness started to creep back into my head, I looked around the room I was in at the time. When you’re in the ICU, you really get to see what everybody else is going through, man.
It’s not just about you in that moment. I could see and hear—everything.
As down and bad as I was at the time, I knew there were people in that room a lot worse off than me. You know, I’m over here talking about hurting myself, and these people were in there fighting for their lives.
There was a guy next to me that was halfway dead, and another guy across from me with a bullet in his neck.
Why am I complaining?
And those nurses never stopped smiling, either. In all of that chaos, they encouraged me and gave me hope when those around me had very little, if any.
That entire ordeal changed my whole life and set the stage for the man I would become.
More than an athlete
After tearing my ACL the following season, I hung on to the things I experienced in that ICU room. I remembered what I felt seeing those other individuals fighting for their lives.
That’s when it hit me: This journey isn’t just about me and my dreams.
It’s about uplifting others that are trapped in that same dark place that nearly swallowed me like the water under the Fort Duquesne Bridge.
That’s when I launched L.O.V.E (Living Out Victoriously Everyday) with one of my friends.
The idea was to create a community of athletes that would uplift and support one another when times get hard.
Of course, I didn’t have any idea it would blow up into what it’s become.
God blesses you in the right moment for whatever you’re prepared for, and the success of L.O.V.E was him letting me know in the right moment that I was prepared.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t take a lot to change this world. Sometimes, all the world needs is someone that just cares, you know?
If we all just cared about somebody else for five minutes in a freaking day, imagine the progress we’d make.
This organization has become my everything.
Seeing it flourish and help change lives is beyond rewarding.
Yes, despite three season-ending knee injuries, football is still my passion, and I’m determined to do everything I can to play in the NFL.
But looking into the faces of high school kids that I’ve talked to and hearing them say that I’ve either saved or changed their lives is humbling.
Just the thought of my story or anything I have to say touching someone — just wow, man.
That, to me, is seven times more important than me picking up a ball and scoring a touchdown.
It reminds me that I’m more than an athlete — that my life isn’t defined by whether I make it to the NFL or not.
It’s defined by the lives I touch along the way.