Darryl Clack Former NFL Cowboy Tackles Mental Illness

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( ENSPIRE Man Code 101 ) Darryl Clack Encourages Others with Mental Health Issues Through New Book “Hear My Story Before I Forget”

ENSPIRE Contributor: Taylor Groft

Darryl Clack was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft. He was the backup and possible successor to Tony Dorsett. In 1988, Clack was the third-leading kickoff returner after Herschel Walker took over at running back, and Clack relegated to returning kickoffs. Clack is also a Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

Clack had taken numerous blows to the head over the years and had experienced his first concussion in the fifth grade. The injury caused him to ensure memory loss. The repeated head trauma has caused early-stage dementia. Clack was also diagnosed with Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP), a rare autoimmune blood disorder where blood clots form throughout the body. Clack had a near-death experience due to the life-threatening illness that caused him to write his new memoir, “Hear My Story Before I Forget.”

What factors prevent mental health issues from getting the attention that they deserve, particularly among athletes?

For athletes, I believe stigma is the most commonly reported factor preventing athletes with mental health issues from seeking help. We feel that getting help for mental illness is a sign of weakness. If we’re seen as being weak, we run the risk of not being chosen, not being idolized, and not being fighters. But in reality, seeking help is being strong and fighting. If we (athletes) open up and share our stories, we can help eliminate the stigma and inspire others to get help when they’re struggling.

What lessons have you carried with you from your football career?

The lesson I’ve carried with me from my football career includes hard work. You don’t gain improvement at getting better with anything without hard work. Dedication, staying focused, and shutting out distractions that could take you away from your overall goal.  Not giving up because things don’t always turn out the way you expect them, however, you can’t let that stop you. You have to keep pushing.

What effects have you observed/anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on mental health? 

Stress is a major factor during any infectious disease outbreak. It brings on fear and worries about your own health. It causes you to worry about your financial situation, especially if you’re the head of the household and the loss of loved ones due to the pandemic can really boost stress. 

What advice would you give from your experience in the matter to someone who is trying to keep their head straight amidst all of this uncertainty?

I notice that when I stay busy my mind doesn’t wander to a place of worry or anxiety. I would advise people to tune in to family more by having conversations, watching TV together, cooking together, and doing physical activities together like bike riding or walking. It’s also good to get involved with a project like decluttering your garage or closet. Even writing a book that you’ve always wanted to do. And try to avoid alone time because it could bring on stages of depression.

What is the importance for you of passing on your experience and story to your readers and the next generation of athletes as the president and co-founder of SportMetric?

Because SportMetric is an organization that hosts youth football camps, it puts us in front of the youth that allows us to share the importance of education, proper techniques on the field to avoid injuries. So, it is only natural for me to go into this area in my book.  

It’s important for me to pass on my story because my journey may help aspiring athletes deal with issues that I dealt with starting as early as experiencing my first concussion in the fifth grade. It is also important that readers understand that these things I mention in my book are valid because at some point athletes will experience concussions and they’ll also experience ramifications of their injuries. So, if I can give them insight on ways to go about getting help, and not falling into the mental health stigma that’s half the battle. It is also important that parents of young athletes know what to look for and what to do if and when their child is injured. 

Clack wrote his book to share his story and to show all people, but targeting athletes, with mental health issues that they should seek help before it is too late. He wants to help aspiring athletes deal with the issues he has experienced. Clack wrote “Hear My Story Before I Forget” because he wants to encourage people to get help by sharing his story and experiences.

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