NASHVILLE – A.J. Brown did not act on impulse.
The Tennessee Titans wide receiver said Thursday that it was hours between the time he recorded a video last week and when he finally posted it to his social media accounts. In it, he revealed his struggles with depression that led him to ponder suicide during the 2020 NFL season.
The reaction was immediate – and overwhelmingly positive
“A lot of guys reached out to me and told me what I did was powerful,” Brown said. “A lot of guys on my team have sat down and talked to me one-on-one about their struggles, which we need to do more often. We need to look out for one another.
“I know we play this beautiful game, but life is beautiful too.”
The 23-year-old out of Starkville, Miss. conceded that he was raised with a traditional approach toward sadness and depression. That is to say that he ignored his feelings and kept moving forward.
On Nov. 12, 2020, he found himself at the end of the line. He chose not to reveal what brought him to that point, but he did say that it was former Ole Miss teammate and current New York Jets rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore, who pulled him back to safety, figuratively speaking.
“He’s more than family,” Brown said. “I love him like he’s my brother. He is my brother. But he is a special person, and I appreciate him each and every day.
“… It was a dark moment, and it was a year ago where I had thought about taking my life.”
That same day, Brown caught one pass for 21 yards in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. In each of his five previous games, however, he had caught at least four passes and twice topped 100 receiving yards. In the seven that followed, he again caught at least four passes every time out. He finished the season with 70 receptions for 1,075 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
For most, a player selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft who already was near the top of his profession is an unlikely candidate for depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I know for me, walking around with a smile – that’s easy to put on,” Brown said. “Anybody can do it. But when we go home, some of us have real-life problems. It’s just how you deal with those things.
“I’m human, just like everyone else. Just because I play this beautiful game doesn’t mean that life is not going to happen to me too. I’m grateful for the person who was there for me, and I just want to encourage everyone to seek help if you’re down and you’re depressed. Just try to get help.”
Brown did exactly that. In the last year he said he has been engaged in therapy and has moved on from the helpless feelings. He expresses confidence that he has the knowledge and the tools to ensure that he won’t return to that place.
His hope is that many others will do the same at a time when dialogue on the importance of mental health is prominent in the professional sports world.
“I’m in a better place mentally,” Brown said. “That’s behind me now. I know how to deal with certain things when something comes up in my life now. Growing up, I just kind of brushed off my feelings, and I buried them. You don’t need to do that. You need to get things off your chest and talk to someone.”
And he has seen no need to second-guess his decision to post the video and go public with his own struggles.
“It was special to me because it just came on my heart, and I wanted to share it with others and help others as much as I can,” Brown said. “Like I said, I’m here. I have so much to be grateful for. I’m blessed. I know I get to wake up every day and play the game that I love, and I have loved ones around me that love me dearly. I just wanted to help someone. Hopefully, I could save a life or anything.”