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Ravens Rookie Hayden Hurst Opens Up About Mental Health

July 5, 2018
Ravens rookie tight end Hayden Hurst said on Glenn Clark Radio June 29 that his struggle with depression and anxiety has made him the man he is today, ready for a career in the NFL. 

"I am comfortable with the person I've become," Hurst said. "It's a part of me. It's who I am. Everybody finds their own ways to deal with things." 

The Ravens selected Hurst with the 25th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 24-year-old rookie, who spent three years in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league farm system, has dealt with depression and anxiety as well as the "yips," a mysterious illness that afflicts athletes and robs them of their fine motor skills. Hurst said he uses activities like working out, playing football and hanging out with his family to manage his mental health issues.

Hurst said he wants to use his platform as a professional athlete to create a dialogue around the issue of mental health and plans to start a foundation with his mother to raise money to help adolescents who struggle with mental health problems. 

"It's kind of a taboo topic," Hurst said of depression and anxiety. "People don't want to talk about it. You say, 'depression, anxiety' and people are like, 'Oh man, I'm sorry, I'm sorry' and there's no further conversation about it. I'm not afraid to use my platform and talk about what I went through and help the next kid that's struggling."

Hurst's path to the NFL has been an uncommon one. In 2015, he quit baseball and walked on the football team at the University of South Carolina. By his second year, he was awarded a full scholarship. In three seasons he amassed 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns for the Gamecocks.

Despite giving up baseball, Hurst said he has no "ill will" toward his old pastime.

"To be honest, I really don't think about baseball much at all anymore," Hurst said. "I really just don't watch it."

With training camp just weeks away, Hurst said his time playing minor league baseball has prepared him for a career in the NFL. After a recent offseason workout, Hurst shared some insights with his fellow rookies about being a new player in a professional sports organization.

"I was like, 'Guys, they don't treat you this good in the minor leagues and you go through the same sort of rigorous days for 12 hours,'" Hurst said. "You're really just a number. You don't get paid quite as handsomely. You don't get fed like you do in the NFL.

"What I went through in minor league baseball has definitely gotten me ready for the NFL and what we're going to have to go through here in a few weeks with training camp. So, I don't think it could be possibly any worse than what I experienced."

When he's not throwing blocks or catching passes on the field, Hurst said a typical Friday night consists of sitting on his couch watching TV -- "Peaky Blinders" and "Westworld" are two of his favorites -- or playing NHL on his Xbox and going to bed early. 

"I'm a little old and washed up," he joked.

His go-to team to play with on Xbox is the Penguins, but he added that once he got drafted by the Ravens, any semblance of fandom for the Steel City disappeared quickly.

Since April, most of the media spotlight has fallen on fellow first-rounder, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, which has relieved some of the pressure on Hurst, he said.

"He gets most of the questions," Hurst said of Jackson. "Obviously he's the quarterback; he's the Heisman Trophy winner. It takes some of the pressure off of me, but Lamar is going to have success, too. I think what the Ravens did was great -- bringing in a quarterback and then getting me to kind of help in the passing game. I think it's an exciting time in Baltimore."

Hurst hopes to provide an immediate impact on the Ravens' offense, which ranked 29th last year in total passing yards. 

"I couldn't be more excited to be in the situation that I'm in," Hurst said. "To be in [Ravens' offensive coordinator] coach Marty Mornhinweg's offense and obviously to have Joe [Flacco] -- a Super Bowl-winning quarterback -- throwing me the football and then having Lamar in there too, I think the opportunities for offense are kind of endless. … I think everyone knows Joe loves throwing to the tight ends. 

"I know this guy is pretty fired about it."

For more from Hurst, listen to the full interview here:

 
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox