Former Alabama linebacker addresses mental health and rediscovers passion after career-ending injury | Sports

OXFORD – On the gridline, former Alabama linebacker Marvin Constant has proven to be an unstoppable 6-foot-2, 245-pound monster capable of blasting his way through just about anyone in pursuit of the quarterback.

But off the pitch, like many young men, he just wanted to make his mother proud – or at the very least not cause her any pain or disappointment. That’s exactly what Constant was afraid of when he wrote his first book, “The Unraveling of a Man Who Bleeds Crimson” in 2014.

In the book, Constant wrote about the drinking, dark thoughts and depression that followed him after a leg injury near the end of the 1999 season that virtually ended his career. A freshman All-SEC linebacker that season, Constant seemed, at the time, headed for a promising college and NFL career.

“What took me the most, in terms of getting to a point where I knew I wanted to write it, was how I knew it was going to make my mom feel when she found out what was really going on. with me,” Constant said. “Because I knew it was going to really hurt her knowing that I was going through all of this. So that’s the thing that hurt me the most, knowing that I was going to hurt her.

Constant spoke about his evolving thoughts on mental health, his writing process and shared his thoughts on the current state of Alabama’s defense during an autograph signing at the ‘Oxford Harley Davidson Saturday afternoon.

When he first suffered his injury making a life-saving tackle on the goal line to secure a 23-17 win over LSU, Constant struggled with his newfound reality.

Before, Constant had always found his identity by being tough. This kind of person did not broadcast his pain to the world. They internalized it and dealt with it on their own.

“It’s the stigma that keeps so many athletes, and men in general, in mental confinement,” Constant said. “And when they end up doing things to hurt themselves, everyone is like, well, they should have said something, but they (society) make it so taboo to say something that that’s why the most don’t.”

In conversations with other athletes who have suffered similar career-ending injuries, Constant learned that gloomy thoughts are common. He said he has heard some former athletes even talk about killing themselves.

“I mean, those were dark conversations, and from those conversations, the only thing I could think of was that I should do something to help others while helping myself through the process,” said Constant.

So he wrote his first book and in doing so he found a measure of healing and acceptance. Then in 2020, Constant wrote his second book, “Physical and Mental Fitness at 40 Plus”.

“For me, it’s like the next progression of my first book,” Constant said. “Now that we’re beyond that, how can we live the rest of our lives and achieve peace of mind, that satisfaction. Because if you’re not in good physical and mental health, when are you even killing yourself. You have to have a combination of both. You can’t have one without the other.

Constant now weighs nearly 225 pounds. At one point, he weighed as high as 312 after his football career ended prematurely. He can’t help but smile as he looks at the before and after photo he keeps saved on his phone.

“Yes, (I’m proud) to be back to who I am and who I was comfortable with all my life,” he said. “And it took me a long time to get there because, again, fighting a lot of those demons had a direct impact on what I was able to do.”

These demons kept Constant from watching any form of football, including Alabama, for years. Back then, the sport was a bitter reminder of a future that had been stolen from it.

“It should be me, but because I had this injury it changed everything,” Constant said. “It really cost me dearly.”

These days, it can be hard to get Constant to change the subject once the Crimson Tide shows up. That’s especially true if defensive coordinator Pete Golding is mentioned.

“I just feel like he’s doing the players a disservice. … Several of my friends are NFL coaches and scouts, and they’re all saying the same thing,” Constant said. the tape, the guys look lost, they look confused, they don’t seem trained, so why are you paying this guy 1 million dollars a year?

Constant thinks the time for change at the defensive coordinator position is long gone, and he points to the streak of recent seasons and the dwindling number of defensive players drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.

“Nobody came here for fun, because there’s nothing fun about hitting 300-pound grown men in 100-degree heat,” Constant said. “There’s nothing fun about it. The reality is that most of the guys who play the sport come from poor families and are looking to step up to help their family.

Constant said he was sick of seeing Crimson Tide defenders looking dazed and out of position on the field.

“They’ll say they’re young, so they were confused,” Constant said. “As a defensive coordinator, if the guys are confused, what do you do? You scale it down and run what they’re comfortable with so the guys can play as fast as they are hard.

The mention of Will Anderson’s name stops Constant’s rant about Golding dead in its tracks.

“Oh man, Will Anderson, I think he’s going to be the greatest defensive player in Alabama football history,” Constant said. “I think his name will be mentioned with the Derrick Thomases and the Corneilus Bennetts. I think Will is in a great position to dominate this year, and I’m going to be honest with you, which is going to make Will even more dominant. this year it’s Dallas Turner. Dallas Turner is going to demand some respect from the other side.

Constant likes what he saw from then-freshman Turner late in the season when Turner had 19 tackles, 8.5 sacks, four rushing quarterbacks and one fumble recovery over the past seven games.

“I see determination, I see never giving up, never giving up,” Constant said. “He never takes the games away. He’s always listening, he’s always pushing and motivating his teammates to finish plays and finish the game. So Pete is going to be lucky he will have at least one first round defense this year, but it has nothing to do with Pete. That’s all Will Anderson wants.

Whether he was criticizing Golding or praising Anderson, Constant couldn’t stop the excitement on his face or his voice from getting louder as he discussed the Crimson Tide on Saturday.

With such passion, it’s easy to see how far Constant has come from the dark days when he couldn’t even bring himself to watch football, let alone discuss it.

“I’ve always had a love for the game,” Constant said. “My injury just derailed me, and it just changed my mental thought process.

“So I knew a day would come when I could watch it again. I just didn’t know when it would be. I’ve always loved Alabama football. You know, I grew up selling cokes and programs at Bryant-Denny So I always knew (that passion would come back), I just didn’t know what was going to happen in the meantime.