“I was like, ‘Man, I lend my voice to a lot of things’ — I play football, I’ve mentored young people, I’ve worked for Special Olympics and all that,” said Roberts, who additionally to work for Special Olympics is also an analyst on the Seahawks’ pre-game and post-game radio broadcasts. “It felt like a place where my voice and my journey could have a major impact on former athletes for one, on men for another, and then on men of color for even another layer. So I wanted to do this kind of thing where I kind of tell my story. It’s kind of a journey, because it’s not like I went (to the After Impact program) and things are done and everything is rosy I wanted people to be able to take this journey with me and then be able to see what it’s like, what it’s like, what it’s like to have resources and to use resources and all these different kinds of things, just to try to demystify some of the things about mental health and men and African American men and athletes in a way that if it helps a person, then I’m glad it does.
The biggest message, says Roberts, is for people to know, “It’s okay not to be okay. And it’s good to let people know you’re not well. You don’t have to shout it to everyone, but if you have a close-knit group of friends or someone you trust or a therapist or whatever, it’s OK to letting people know you’re not well, even though you’re 6-5 and 300 pounds and can press the world.”
Robert’s podcast debuts with a conversation between himself, Michael Bumpus, another Seahawks broadcaster, and Michael Shawn-Dugar, who covers the Seahawks for The Athletic. In the first episode, Roberts talks about growing up in an abusive home, his parents’ drinking problems, and how one of his goals after going to Virginia on a football scholarship was to become strong enough to go home and fight his daddy. But he also talks about the good times he had with his parents, about his father finding God and changing his life, and about the forgiveness that was finally granted when his father died.
“I’ve always been kind of an open book and just kind of transparent like that, because I feel like I can take the load,” he said. “But in getting a little more intimate about my parents and my family and stuff – both of my parents are dead – I had to ask myself if I was honoring them. And because I don’t want people walk away and think, ‘Hey, he had the worst parents in the history of the world.’ I love my parents. There’s a lot of things that helped me succeed, it’s my personality and just my ability to connect with people and talk to people and all that kind of stuff. It was my mom inside and out. And then my dad’s work ethic – my dad worked a million different jobs to support us.
“I think if my dad could tell me that he would give me a pat on the back because he knows I’m trying to help others and the goal is not to expose my parents. The goal is to help other people who can say, “Man, this guy played in the NFL. Top 10, played for 10 years, started in the league for 120 games and all that, but man, we’re similar. We are similar in this area. And if he can handle that stuff, I can handle it. ‘…I consider myself a people connector, and that’s a way for me to keep connecting people and keep helping people.”
As the podcast continues with different guests, Roberts will continue to tell the story of his playing days, his post-playing career, and the various mental health issues he faced. The hope is that by joining him on this journey, others struggling with their own mental health issues can find the help they need.
“Just come on this trip with me,” he said. “And as I get better and can try to help other people, interview players from all walks of life, whether it’s NFL, NBA, college, high school, whatever , and then get a chance to talk to some professionals, mental health professionals. I think that’s my calling right now.”
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