While many young athletes hope and dream from a young age to make it to the pro's in their respective sport, success, fame, and that particular lifestyle don't always equal happiness. Not only is their immense pressure, but the demanding schedule, physical requirements and intense dedication can create a tough mental space, even at the collegiate level. Luckily for Jaylon Glover and Tyler Knaak, not only have they recognized that everybody struggles, but Utah also offers a unique program to make sure their players are being looked after.
"When it comes to mental health, especially the guy you idolize in the sports field, you think they're invincible. You don't see all the things that go on behind closed doors...I feel like behind the athlete, I see the individual human being. Our struggles are the same as theirs. They might be on a different level or a different capacity but I don't think we should ever belittle mental health at all," Glover said.
"When you have all of the media and attention on you, it's hard to take time for yourself," Knaak added.
Over the last few years, professional athletes have begun speaking out about mental health on a much larger scale. Some of the worlds top athletes, including Kevin Love, Demar Derozan, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles are just a few of the many individuals who have decided to share their mental struggles. Despite experiencing immense success, making millions of dollars, and being recognizable throughout most of the world, each of these athletes have admitted to personal struggles.
While many of these athletes have mostly been professional, college athletes are no exception. Not only are these athletes expected to perform to the best of their ability, but with the stress of school thrown on top of it, potentially being far away from home and trying to juggle everything in between, being a student-athlete is no easy task.
"Imagine everyday always competing. You are never guaranteed a spot or a position. Every day you are working. So, you can imagine how much of a toll it is, especially for athletes. You are going to practice every day, you are going to war with guys and there is no telling if you are ever going to see the field...to think about that pressure you can get into a darker and deeper place, and be like, 'Dang, I can't mess up.'" Glover explained.
But at the University of Utah, nobody has to walk their journey alone. From day one, each incoming freshman is given a big brother to provide the younger players with guidance and an immediate friend. For Glover and Knaak, this has already made a huge difference as they have acclimated to the collegiate level.
"At the U there is no philosophy in the playbook that anybody's alone," Glover explained. "As soon as the new guys get here, the first thing we do is step in front of the team and announce who we are, what we plan to do, and when we got there. Coach [Kyle] Whitt's first thing is to tell one of the guys to take who is speaking under their wing. Nobody is ever alone. That's just how we are and that's the culture at the U. We are brothers."
"Going off the whole idea of being a big brother, I describe our team as a family. I show up to work every day and I get to work with my brothers. I'm not working with these teammates that I don't talk to...every night I am hopping on COD [Call of Duty] or Fortnite with these guys or going out and eating food. They're my family, they're not just the teammates that I see in the morning," Knaak said.
While its no secret that the University of Utah Football Program has one of the most family-centered cultures in all of college football, its these kinds of stories and programs that shed light onto what that truly means. Think back to last season. In the span on nine months, the program tragically lost two of their brothers and had everyone reason to cancel the season. The amount of mental struggles that a majority of those players had to have gone through is unimaginable and yet, they got through it together.
So while the Utes continue to attract the attention of the nations top recruits with their production on the field, the family-culture has proven to be a key-factor in securing those top players as the program is just different. Athletes struggle just like the rest of us, but at the University of Utah, they can perform in a safe space with brotherly support from the day they step on campus.
For more exclusive FanNation AllUtes content, including more from Glover, individuals can check out the links below to the listen to the second episode of the Jaylon Glover podcast.
Facebook - @FanNationAllUtes
Twitter - @FN_AllUtes
Instagram - @fannation_allutes