Former Holy Cross head football coach Rick Carter suffered devastating personal losses that contributed to depression.  (Photo courtesy of College of the Holy Cross)
Former Holy Cross head football coach Rick Carter suffered devastating personal losses that contributed to depression. (Photo courtesy of College of the Holy Cross)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, ESPN Films released a digital short entitled The Throwback, which tells the story of Gordie Lockbaum on the 30th anniversary of his first (of two) Heisman Trophy bids. Mike Philbrick, an editor at ESPN and a graduate of Lockbaum’s alma mater, The College of the Holy Cross, wrote a companion piece to the short that explored the story of Rick Carter, Lockbaum’s first coach at the school.

“I just wanted to do a good job for Coach Carter. I didn’t want to disappoint him.”

That’s the quote I heard from every player, coach and administrator I spoke with when I was researching the recently published ESPN.com piece looking at the tragic tenure of Rick Carter’s football coaching career at The College of the Holy Cross.

And the deeper I went, the more I felt the same. I didn’t want to disappoint Coach.

To fully understand this story you don’t need to put yourself in Coach Carter’s shoes as a successful football coach, you need to put yourself in 1985.

I can’t emphasize enough how impossible a place Coach Carter found himself in. As is said in the column, this story occurred before many mental illnesses were in the mainstream of acceptance.

Post-partum depression? That was the baby blues. Just hold your baby and you will feel fine. PTSD? That was just battle fatigue. Give it time. You’ll be fine.

That’s what was missing. That piece were if someone was in bed for 36 hours unable to move by crippling depression was no different chemically than someone in the bathroom all afternoon because they have Crohn’s disease. Thankfully, opinions and treatment options would change, but not in time for Coach Carter.

This story isn’t just important because as an alumnus of Holy Cross I feel that Coach Carter’s legacy needs to be recognized, but because the time of year it is. The holiday season is a joyous time to share with family and friends, but if you are battling depression, it can be a catalyst to just the opposite.

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