CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Carolina Panthers football legend wants to make sure anyone facing a mental struggle knows they're not broken.
On Tuesday morning, former wide receiver Steve Smith shared some inspiration, based on his own battle with depression.
Smith, whose 16-year National Football League career included 13 seasons with the Panthers, spoke to hundreds of people at the Charlotte Convention Center for the Mental Health America Central Carolinas breakfast.
He said that despite all the love from his wife, children and fans, he still felt alone.
"When the stadium goes dark and the cheers stop, you're still looking for that pat on the back," Smith told the crowd. “I started to realize, ‘Man something is wrong.’”
Smith caught 80 touchdown passes during his career, including 67 with Carolina. But behind the glory, depression lurked.
The condition, Smith wrote in 2018, is "too often taboo" and "shut behind closed doors."
Smith also wrote it was tough to open up about depression, particularly in "a tough-guy sport like football, with a social media environment that glorifies successes and status."
Smith said he first began receiving counseling in 2002, his second season in the NFL.