Howe: Sean Welsh Standing Up to Depression Not an Easy Exercise

July 19, 2017

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – I started working on a Sean Welsh feature story last month. I interviewed Iowa’s senior offensive lineman then, looking to learn more about him as a person.

I tried digging deeper into what led into him leaving the team during the spring of 2015. I wanted to know more beyond what he told me for a column I wrote later that year upon his return. Like then, he told me he just wasn’t sure if his heart was in football.

Welsh was telling the truth. But I sensed there was more to the story. He was being guarded.

Tuesday, I spoke at length with his mother, hoping to gain insight into her son. She was very open, sharing some great stories of his childhood. When we got to the period when Sean left the team, she closed up a little. Again, it seemed something was being left out.

Last night, I began thinking about what it could be. I wasn’t trying to figure it out in order to reveal things the family was keeping private. It was curiosity. I felt a connection to these folks.

Often times in these cases, we lean on what we know. We wonder if someone is sharing our experiences. We all have things.

My questions were answered Wednesday here at the Iowa football complex. Welsh bravely stood up in front of a group of reporters. He revealed his soul.

Depression grabbed ahold of him in 2014, he told us. He also wrote about it for the university’s web site.

I don’t always guess right. My wife and kids can tell you that. However, I nailed this one.

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I certainly didn’t expect Welsh to come forward with something so personal in front of reporters. I definitely didn’t think it would happen so soon. But, I wasn’t surprised by what he was saying. His words hit home.

I’ve been dealing with depression for the better part of two decades. I’m sure it was present before I was diagnosed in the late ’90s. I hid it for years from everyone other than those very close to me.

It remains taboo. I still hear people question it’s validity, including friends that don’t understand it and see it as a non-issue. It’s real.

I could not have been more proud of Welsh on Wednesday. I felt the emotion build up in me as he spoke. What he did was tougher than any defensive lineman he’s pancaked in his career.

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Football long has been known as a tough-guy sport. You’re told to sprinkle some dirt on it and move on. That didn’t happen here.

Welsh received great medical help at the university. He also was supported by coaches Kirk and Brian Ferentz, and Chris Doyle, among others on the staff. It’s hard to describe how good it felt to hear that. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Perhaps there was no greater sign of progress than Welsh being able to open up to his teammates. Instead of acting like he was a weirdo, they stepped forward to help. That said a lot for a group of young men with a lot on their plates.

Welsh opened up in the hopes of bringing attention to the affliction. He used his local celebrity to help others tackle an illness still largely misunderstood.

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It grips you to a degree every day. At it’s worst, it suffocates the spirit, rendering its victim helpless.

Luckily, it’s more accepted now than ever before in society. Medical advancements and therapy are moving in the right direction and more people are coming forward for help. That needs to continue.

Welsh wrapped up his talk Wednesday by extending a plea:

Finally, and this is the most important thing I would like you to take away from this, if you think you suffer from depression, see someone. If you suspect a loved one suffers, get them the help they need. And if you know of someone struggling with depression be understanding and caring – you will make a world of difference.

I couldn’t have said it any better. Take a bow, Sean Welsh.

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