Sports is great for athletes and for the fans of their favorite teams. For fans going to a sporting event is fun and they love seeing their favorite team or athletes do well in whatever sport they are doing. But tragedies in sports does happen and some athletes, despite all the money they make, still cannot find happiness because they feel empty inside. Some athletes, like everyday human beings, take their own life while some attempt to harm themselves. It is very heartbreaking and it’s always a stark reminder that you never know who’s truly suffering inside.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, as 44,193 Americans pass on by their own hand each year. Suicide costs the United States $51 billion annually. Some of these tragedies don’t make the news but when an athlete or a celebrity does, the media picks up on it quick.
In this article I take a look at 10 athletes who took their own life and 10 who attempted self harm, but thankfully managed to survive. Hopefully this will serve as a lesson for those who need it to get help, and for the rest to try to be more aware of the feelings of those around us.
20. Ended It: AARON HERNANDEZ
Aaron Hernandez would’ve been a great tight end in the NFL. In three seasons with the New England Patriots he had 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had 175 receptions in his short time in the NFL. The reason for his short time is because he got arrested for the Odin Lloyd killing in 2013. He would be found guilty of that murder but not guilty of a separate 2012 double murder he was also charged for.
Aaron Hernandez took his own life in his jail cell this past April and left notes to his family. Aaron Hernandez’s brain was tested for CTE and his lawyer came out and said Hernandez had stage 3 CTE. Hernandez’s fiancee is suing the NFL and the Patriots for hiding the possible causes of brain damage while playing in the NFL. Hernandez left a daughter behind that will grow up without a father.
19. Almost Did: RONDA ROUSEY
Ronda Rousey won a bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She also won 12 consecutive MMA fights and was voted Best Female Athlete Ever in September of 2015 by ESPN. Having all those wins and good things can be overwhelming though and could cause someone to overwork themselves.
After her loss however to Holly Holm in late 2015, she worked so hard and after that loss to Holm she thought her career was over. She told Ellen “Honestly, my thought in the medical-room, I was sitting in the corner and was like ‘what am I anymore if I’m not this?’ Literally sitting there thinking about killing myself. In that exact second I’m like I’m nothing. What do I do anymore? No one gives a s— about me anymore without this.”
18. Ended It: JUNIOR SEAU
Junior Seau was one of the most passionate linebackers in the National Football League. He was a 10 time All -Pro went to the Pro Bowl 12 times, and named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team. In his 20 years in the NFL he played in 268 games and had 1,522 tackles. He played 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers, four seasons with the New England Patriots, and three seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
Junior Seau would play in 10 playoff games he got 2 tackles and one interception. Unfortunately because Junior Seau had so many hits to the head he suffered from chronic brain damage, it would also in result in depression. He would sadly take his own life on May 2, 2012. It was a single gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Oceanside California, as he wanted his brain to be donated to science after his passing.
17. Almost Did: DENNIS RODMAN
Dennis Rodman played for five teams in the NBA; the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks. He was a small forward and power forward, he also was named NBA All-Defensive First Team seven times and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice. He also led the NBA in rebounds and won five NBA championships. He was inducted into the National Basketball Hall Of Fame in 2011.
Rodman had tried to end his life a few times and one of those times, the late Craig Sager saved his life and talked Rodman out of doing it. Sager said in an interview in 1993 with Sports Illustrated “He had the gun. He was going to do it. I told him how stupid that would be.” After that attempt he would repeatedly dye his hair in artificial colors and had many piercings and tattoos. He would also go on to win several championships with Chicago.
16. Ended It: ANDRE WATERS
Andre Waters played for the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles in the National Football League from 1984-1995. Waters was one of the NFL’s hard hitting defenders at the time. As a rookie he returned an 89 yard game winning touchdown in 1984 for the Eagles. In 1991 Waters was still with the Eagles, who were ranked number one in both run and pass defense.
After retirement from the NFL he would later be a college coach for Morgan State University, the University of South Florida, Alabama State University, St. Augustine’s College, and Fort Valley State University. He tried to be an NFL coach and was unsuccessful in doing so he did remain close to his former Eagles coaches though. But sadly on November 20, 2006 he took his own life via a gunshot wound to the head. No note was found when he was discovered by his girlfriend.
15. Almost Did: BARRETT ROBBINS
Barrett Robbins was an Oakland Raiders center and who didn’t play in Super Bowl XXXVII In San Diego. He didn’t play because of his mental illness and was having suicidal thoughts, which he confided in his teammates before the game was to be played. He apparently disappeared for almost 24 hours before he returned to the team the Saturday night before the Super Bowl. He was incoherent and unable to know where he was. Raiders coach Bill Callahan was fearful something was wrong and didn’t play him in the big game the following day.
He played nine seasons for the Oakland Raiders but had a rough time post football. In 2010, a police officer pulled him over and found crack cocaine in his car. He was sentenced to five years in a Florida prison and was released on in September of 2012. In August of 2016 he was arrested for punching a mother and a daughter, which resulted in felony battery chargers. He was then sent to a mental health facility.
14. Ended It: RICK RYPIEN
Rick Rypien was a professional hockey player for the Vancouver Canucks and spent six seasons in the NHL. Throughout his playing career, coaches thought he worked hard, as he was a tough player and could make it in the league. With Vancouver, he was a fourth -line forward who provided energy with his speed on the ice. But he also had injuries and kept getting into fights with players twice his size.
Unfortunately Rypien struggled with depression throughout his career. Vancouver knew of him having depression and made sure he got the help he needed while with the team. The work for him became overwhelming between having depression and being a professional hockey player who was expected to drop the gloves. After signing with the Winnipeg Jets he sadly took his own life in his Crowsnest Pass, Alberta home. He was found by a family member.
13. Almost Did: VINCE YOUNG
Vince Young, a former quarterback for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles has not played in the NFL in five years, but he has attempted a comeback, recently playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL. In six seasons in the NFL he played in 60 games and had 755 completions, 8,964 yards, 46 touchdowns, and 51 interceptions. Vince Young was an average quarterback in the NFL but he wasn’t happy and had mentioned the word “suicide” several times to his therapist in 2008. The therapist didn’t let that happen and before Young disappeared following a Week 1 game against Jacksonville, he notified the Titans, who notified the police.
After Young came back though he claimed he was never depressed and that he was just a little hurt. He had a rough game against Jacksonville the week before and was upset about it, so he had to get away for a few days. Not the smartest idea to mention suicide to your therapist though, who did the right thing by notifying the team. Young would play two more seasons with the Titans before going to the Eagles in 2011. Since his NFL career has ended he’s landed a job with his alma mater in Texas, before attempting his football comeback.
12. Ended It: WADE BELAK
Wade Belak was a professional hockey player and like Rypien mentioned earlier, he was somewhat of an enforcer type player. He played for the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators. Unfortunately Bleak would take his own life on August 31, 2011. Belak played for seven teams in his career and his point totals were never high, because he was expected to drop the gloves when called upon, which was a role he accepted in order to stay in the NHL:
Belak told the Toronto Star in May of 2011. “I knew my role was the enforcer type, but I learned a lot of things along the way from people like [former NHL tough guy] Warren Rychel.”
11. Almost Did: TERRELL OWENS
Terrell Owens was a great wide receiver in his prime, playing for five teams in his NFL career the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals. In his 15 year career in the league he had 15,934 yards, 153 touchdowns, 1,078 receptions. But despite him being a great receiver he also had problems off the field and loved the attention he would get.
The year was 2006. Terrell Owens was on the Dallas Cowboys and was in the hospital because he accidentally mixed his painkillers for his broken right hand at the time with his usual medications. The police called it an accidental overdose and that Terrell Owens didn’t think anything of it when he mixed the medications.
Owens denied that he tried to take his own life, and would return to the team and practice. The team wouldn’t answer any questions on the Owens situation and all these years later, there’s still some mystery as to what T.O’s intentions were.
10. Ended It: KENNY MCKINLEY
Kenny McKinley was a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. He played in eight games as a kick returner. He returned we kicks for 158 yards. He also had three special teams tackles.
Unfortunately McKinley had bad gambling debts. He owed $40,000 in Las Vegas casinos. It was overwhelming for him and he used a gun he purchased from teammate Jabar Gaffney and shot himself on September 20th, 2010. It was at his home in Colorado and four weeks after his season ending knee surgery.
A close friend of his, fellow NFL player Tom Brandaster reportedly had lent McKinley money before: “Kenny went to Vegas a lot. Sometimes he won, but mostly he lost lots of money,” Brandstater told investigators following his death. “Kenny took out a line of credit in Vegas, and they are trying to collect from him.”
9. Almost Did: ALLISON SCHMITT
Olympic Swimmer Allison Schmitt has won alot of Olympic Medals she won five in the 2012 Olympics in London. Allison was struggling depression for two years after her winning all those medals in 2012. After the 2012 Olympics people would come up to her and congratulate her saying they wish they were her. Her reaction would be “I wish I felt the same way.”
Her first attempt at suicide was in 2015 when she was driving from Baltimore to Penn State to watch her twin sisters play in a women’s hockey game. She had thoughts of going off the road but didn’t and made it to the game safely. She is now an inspiration to many athletes and people who battle depression today saying “Being vulnerable is not a weakness.” She also says Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps also helped her survive depression.
8. Ended It: RYAN FREEL
Ryan Freel played for five Major League Baseball teams from 2001-2009. Freel played for the Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, and the Kansas City Royals. He also played all the outfield positions for the teams he was on and was mainly used as a utility player. In eight seasons in the MLB he played in 594 games, hitting 22 home runs and had 122 RBIs.
Unfortunately he had some off field issues. He was arrested twice, once for a DUI, and the second for disorderly intoxication. He paid a fine for the first one and the charges were dropped the second time. He also heard voices in his head as well. The voice in his head which he would name Farney would tell him ‘nice hit’ if he got a hit or ‘good game’ if he had a good game. On December 22, 2012 Freel would die of a self inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Jacksonville Florida.
7. Almost Did: KEN GRIFFEY JR.
Ken Griffey Jr. was by far one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Griffey played 22 years in Major League Baseball for the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox. In his career he played in 2,671 games had 630 home runs, and 1,836 RBIs. He was also a 13 time All-Star and a 10 time winner of the Gold Glove.
Believe it or not Griffey was once thinking of ending his life saying “It seemed like everyone was yelling at me in baseball, then I came home and everyone was yelling at me there. I got depressed. I got angry. I didn’t want to live.” Griffey ended up in the hospital after swallowing 277 aspirins when he was only 17 years old. He went public with the story because he wanted to bring awareness to people that thought about it that there is help out there.
6. Ended It: JIM TYRER
Jim Tyrer was an offensive line tackle in the American Football League for the Dallas Texans /Kansas City Chiefs. He also played in the NFL for the Chiefs and Washington Redskins. Tyrer singed with the Dallas Texans in 1961 he played 13 seasons with the franchise. They would later become the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963. His final season he went to the Washington Redskins as he was traded for three draft picks.
Tyrer was named AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1969. He was also an AFL Western Division All -Star seven times from 1962-1969. After retirement from playing football he would invest in a tire business. The tire business would fail and he would work for Amway. With him in alot of debt because of his financial mistakes on September 15,1980 he shot his wife then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. That’s very sad and eariler that day he had just taken his 10-year-old son to a Chiefs game.
5. Almost Did: THEOREN FLEURY
Theoren Fleury opened up a lot in his book entitled ‘Playing With Fire’ as he revealed that he was sexually abused as a young hockey player by his old coach and that his secret haunted him throughout his career. He turned to various substances and eventually, he felt like everything was just too much for him to take.
Fleury claimed to go as far as holding a loaded gun in his mouth back in 2004 when his career was winding down and he felt he decided against it and changed his direction in life. He would eventually get the help he needed and has remained sober for over a decade. He has also reached out in various communities in an effort to help others avoid going down the same dark path he once did.
4. Ended It: RICK BLIGHT
Rick Blight was a native of Portage La Prairie Manitobia he was a player for the Brandon Wheat Kings. In 201 games with the WHL he scored 141 goals and 336 points which was good enough to get him drafted by the Vancouver Cancuks in the 1975 NHL Draft. He was named Rookie of the Year for the Cancuks in 1975-1976 season with 25 goals and 56 points debut. But in the 1978- 79 season he would only play 56 games and scored just five goals. He had knee trouble that caused him to miss some time that season and he would be released by the team.
He then singed with Toronto and Edmonton but he never got playing time with the teams. He retired after the 1982-83 season, playing 326 NHL games scoring 96 goals, and 221 points. The next time anyone heard the name Rick Blight was in 2005 when his family reported him missing for 11 days. His body would be found on April 17,2005 inside a pickup truck and it was reported a suicide.
3. ERIK KRAMER
Erik Kramer played in 10 seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and San Diego Chargers. Kramer passed for 15,337 yards 92 touchdowns and 79 interceptions. He played in 83 games and started 67 of them. But being in sports can be challenging sometimes and if athletes have depression, it’s still with them whether they play sports or not.
The year is 2015 and Kramer unfortunately attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head. His ex-wife at the time said he had been battling severe depression from all the hits he would take playing football. Kramer has two sons and his ex-wife Marshawn wrote on her Facebook page “Erik is an amazing father and man. He would never leave his sons never.”
2. Ended It: BILL ROBINZINE
Bill Robinzine grew up in Chicago he played seven seasons with the NBA from 1975-1982. He played for the Kansas City Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, and Utah Jazz. Robinzine was a rebounder and defensive player as a power forward. He played for the Kings for five seasons before being released. He was never known as a top scorer but he was a solid rebounder and a well-rounded defensive player.
He played in 529 games in his career and only started nine of them. Those nine he started was his last year in the league the 1981-82 season.
1. Almost Did: MIKE TYSON
Mike Tyson may be a professional boxing champion, but Tyson has attempted suicide in the past because of drug and gambling problems. He had drug problems and depression when he was younger. He had substance abuse issues and talked about taking his own life. He has had a troubled past but has overcome a lot and it’s shown with all the boxing and heavyweight championships he’s won.
Tyson used his troubled past to be stronger and know that giving up is not an option. People can overcome anything just be true to yourself and pick a hobby and prove the doubters wrong. In Tyson’s case he used boxing and made a name for himself which is why he’s number one on this list.
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