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Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst is coming clean about his past struggles with depression and substance abuse.
The 26-year-old native of Jacksonville, Florida opened up to local news station First Coast News in a revealing interview that detailed his depression and anxiety.
In the interview, Hurst recounts where he began his career in professional sports—as a promising newcomer on the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. Drafted by the Pirates in 2012, Hurst was a multi-sport athlete, and had also played high school football.
At just 18 years old, Hurst signed with the Pirates for a $400,000 bonus, and forwent a baseball scholarship that had been offered to him by Florida State University.
It was in the minors that Hurst’s anxiety and depression began to take hold. He developed severe performance anxiety while playing baseball, which greatly affected his confidence in the sport. Over time, he experienced panic attacks.
“There were weeks at a time I would sit in a dark room and not want to be around people. Just that fear of embarrassment. I had never experienced anything like that,” he told First Coast News.
Hurst began drinking on a daily basis during this time, and reached out to his father for help. His father shared that anxiety and depression ran in their family—a theme that is familiar to many.
Speaking to the Florida Times-Union about his experience, Hurst said, “The goal was always just to get blacked out. Xanax or cocaine, that made that feeling go away, I tried it. Not the brightest of ideas I ever had.”
Eventually, Hurst left the Pirates, trading in one uniform for another. He walked on to the football team at the University of South Carolina, where he found success in his position as a tight end.
Though behind the scenes, Hurst continued to struggle.
In 2016, while at South Carolina, Hurst reached rock bottom—and attempted to take his own life. A friend found Hurst bleeding from his wrist at his apartment, where Hurst had apparently been drinking and taking pills.
Hurst woke up in a hospital, where he remained under strict observation for three days. He remembers this as the moment that everything changed.
Hurst got sober after his suicide attempt, and has remained in recovery. Though his struggles with mental health and substance abuse are just one part of his story.
In 2018, Hurst found his “second chance” when he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as a first-round pick. The team offered Hurst a four-year deal with a lucrative signing bonus.
According to ESPN, when Hurst chose to leave baseball, a Pirates executive told him, “I hope you can find something you can stick with in your life.” Though Hurst’s first season with the Ravens was a far-cry from his anxiety-riddled days with the Pirates.
Hurst scored his first touchdown as a Raven just a few games into the 2018-2019 season. Over the season, he began to find his rhythm as a rookie player who had great chemistry with quarterback—and fellow rookie—Lamar Jackson.
In 2019, Hurst had another winning season with the Ravens, which ended with a playoff run. It was in this same year that Hurst started to open up more about his past.
Hurst draws upon his experience during lectures to high school students in both his home state of Florida and in Maryland. As a successful professional football player, his story is an important one, as his platform has the ability to connect with students and athletes who recognize parts of themselves in his struggles.
It is rumored that the New England Patriots have their eye on Hurst for the 2020 season, though one thing is for sure: he has made an incredible difference in sharing his journey.
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