Anyone can struggle with anxiety and depression–even top-ranked NFL players. The Eagles’ right tackle has made a name for himself not only with his near-perfect record protecting his quarterback from sacks, but also for his successful rebound from a mental-health crisis that nearly ended his football career.
In the 2021 season, Johnson was suffering from a nagging ankle injury that was impacting his game-play, as well as severe withdrawal symptoms from trying to wean off his antidepressant medication, which included vomiting, hand tremors, and insomnia.
He seriously contemplated quitting football. A talk with his psychiatrist and supportive messages from his teammates brought him back.
Johnson spent some downtime with his family and returned to practice. As his medication issues subsided, his passion for football returned. He continues to work with a psychologist and mental-performance coach.
Teammates say that his openness about his mental-health struggles have inspired them to talk about their own. Tackle Jordan Malaita said that Johnson is “the focal point of our locker room for mental health” and that he goes to Johnson for personal advice.
Johnson shares his mental-health journey with the non-football public, too: He led his first speaking engagement last summer, taking the podium at an event in New Jersey hosted by the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. He spoke from the heart about his personal struggles, breaking into tears when sharing how his father had struggled with alcohol abuse.
Roberta Clark, the organization’s executive director, praised Johnson’s “ability to show vulnerability to help people have better lives.”
Johnson will be on the field against the San Francisco 49ers this weekend. He’s playing despite a lingering groin injury, incurred during the Christmas Eve game against the Dallas Cowboys. Surgery awaits him after the season, but he played through the pain to help Philadelphia beat the New York Giants 38-7.
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