Former NFL linebacker shares his story with mental health

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Storm Speaks Logo

by Isaac Parks, Staff Reporter

Mental health is an issue too often ignored among athletes.

The inability to perform well can mean the end of a career, which is a lesson that former collegiate and professional football player, James Morris, knows all too well. 

Morris discussed the issues he struggled with in his career to Storm Speaks’ student-athletes on Thursday and what he learned from those experiences. 

Storm Speaks acts as a resource for Simpson athletes to deal with their mental health and personal development issues. 

Morris outlined three important lessons he learned in his athletic career. The first point was that a person’s self-worth is not dependent on the way others view them. 

“As athletes, we want to please our coaches and our teammates,” Morris said. “You are held accountable to so many people. So, if you take that to heart and it’s important to you, it can become very easy to have your identity or self-worth wrapped up in how well you are doing relative to somebody else’s standards.”

This issue fueled the lowest point in Morris’ football career at the University of Iowa. After going in mid-game as a replacement for an injured player and performing well, he became a starter for the rest of the season. 

When Morris was a freshman, during practices, he made mistakes due to his inexperience. His linebacker coach came after him for doing poorly. At one point, the coach stopped practice just to yell at Morris in front of the entire team.

 “The last thing he said was, ‘James, nobody on this team has any confidence in you.’ When he said that in front of everybody, I just wanted to crawl into a hole,” Morris said. 

After some kind words from a different coach, Morris went on to play exceptionally next game. He realized that the hate he was receiving wasn’t real and that he was the only person who determined his worth. 

The second point Morris outlined was that there are certain things in life you can’t control, and it is essential to come to make peace with that fact.

After finishing a successful college football career, Morris expected to do the same in the NFL. After just three years in the league, His career ended prematurely due to injuries and ineligibility, which was a difficult reality for him to face.

 “That dream was potentially taken from me before I even had the chance to really pursue it,” Morris said. “There’s going to be things that happen to you in sports and in life that you’re going to have to learn to deal with – understand that there are things you can control and things that you can’t.”

His experience in the NFL led him to one more important lesson, learning how to dream again. 

The personal development skills learned in sports can be used for the rest of life, one of the most important values that come from playing a sport. There is a lot of life to live after sports. 

“Sports don’t last forever. Take that process of goal setting, baby steps, SMART goals and cumulative improvement, and direct that towards something else,” Morris said.