In the aftermath of former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau's suicide last week, Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith took to Twitter to express his condolences.
He also wanted to reach out to current and former players to wake up to the new reality facing all of them regarding life after football and the issues of head trauma and depression.
The subject of Seau and the transition to life after football came up in an interview with the Star-Telegram on Tuesday to promote this weekend's Emmitt Smith Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney and the 1992 Super Bowl champions reunion dinner in Frisco.
Smith, who is not only the league's all-time leading rusher but who also has more carries than anyone in NFL history, admits he worries if the game will take a toll on him mentally and physically one day.
"Why wouldn't I worry?" Smith said. "The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. I pray about it."
Smith said he doesn't know exactly what happened with Seau, but it's personal for him because the two were rookies together in 1990 and his first game was against Seau and the Chargers at Texas Stadium.
"I don't know all the details around his death outside of the suicide speculation, which I guess is a good assessment," Smith said. "What you don't know is what Junior was going through. You never know what another person is going through. A lot of people on Twitter and elsewhere want to know how somebody with that much money can be depressed and commit suicide."
Smith said it frustrates him when people think that athletes or celebrities shouldn't have problems because they supposedly have money.
"It's never about the money," Smith said. "It's about the individual person, whether that person has fulfillment in life, having meaning and find a way to have joy and peace in their life. If you don't have those things and don't have a sense of self worth left, depression can set in and lead to other things. It's just a sad situation. I don't look at it lightly. I don't know if it was head trauma or not.
"Where Junior was at today mentally, players may not identify with because they are in the now. He was in the yesterday. They have to realize his yesterday is their tomorrow. Just going through life itself and through the transitions of leaving a sport we all played for a number of years. Sometimes when that light goes out it's hard to find another light that fuels you."
Some fans don't understand the transition players have into life after football.
"It's only so much golf you can play," Smith said. "Only so many vacations you can take. Plus you are retiring at 35, for me. For some others, it may be sooner. You have to find something else to motivate you, to inspire you to get up every day to find a sense of self worth. At the end of the day it's about personal choice and it's about finding your way through life. That's not an easy thing to do for people who have been to the top, so to speak, in one area and then find themselves in a valley afterward."
Regarding the celebrity weekend and the 1992 team reunion, Smith said the 1992 title was the most special of the franchise's three titles in the 1990s.
"There is nothing more special than the very first one," Smith said. "The excitement of the dream come true for any football player in the game and then to win. The other two can't compare to the excitement, the anxiety and the uncertainty of your first one."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.