Former Syracuse offensive tackle Jonathan Meldrum remembers the scrimmage drill that had him considering suicide. He was a college sophomore, almost six and a half feet tall and over 300 pounds, and one of the school’s standout players. During the drill, he’d hit someone, and shortly thereafter the fellow returned the favor. “He hit me back so hard,” Meldrum, now 27, told me. “And I just started tearing up. If I’d had a gun, I’d have probably put a bullet in my head.”
Meldrum was battling depression, and not for the first time in his life. The trouble started in junior high school, right about when he began playing football. His parents had depression, and his mother was a drug addict. Meldrum’s grandparents had stepped in to care for him, and got him the help he needed—a combination of medication and counselling—to manage his low mood. When he arrived at Syracuse in the spring of 2007, after a short stint at the Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia to shore up his academic eligibility, he felt emotionally solid.
It didn’t last. “During my sophomore year, I got so I wasn’t able to control my ups and downs,” Meldrum said. His football career stalled, he clashed with his coach, and he had girl trouble. “I dreaded waking up. My body would ache. I felt physically sick,” he said. “It was very hard, as a man playing D1 football, to go to somebody and say ‘I’m having a hard time’,” Meldrum said. He marvels at his ability to have made it to practice every day while feeling so desperate. “Here I am, I’m feeling sick, I wished I would die, and I have to go out there and hit people.”