“Long Live Seven: The Bryce “Simba” Gowdy Story” debuts today as the latest installment of the Black History Always Special on The Undefeated on ESPN+ digital streaming platform. The half-hour film explores the underreported issue of suicide among young, Black men and mental health in the Black community.
On Dec. 18, 2019, top wide receiver recruit Gowdy signed an offer letter to play at Georgia Tech in front of excited fans. Unfortunately, two weeks later, Gowdy died after walking in front of an oncoming freight train in Deerfield, Fla.
Directed by ESPN producer Sarah Kazadi, alongside associate producer Sania White, “Long Live Seven” is presented by The Undefeated and E60, the company’s award-winning storytelling team. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who uses his platform to raise mental health awareness, narrates the story. The Undefeated’s Jean-Jacques Taylor interviewed Prescott about his mental wellness advocacy and involvement in “Long Live Seven.”
Kazadi and White share their thoughts on the special with Front Row:
This is the second Black History Always Special that you directed, including last month’s “I Run with Maud,” what does the series mean to you?
Kazadi: I’m grateful to be in a position to tell powerful stories for The Undefeated and the “Black History Always” series. Our history can’t be contained to just the month of February. So, it is professionally rewarding as a storyteller to produce content that serves as constant reminders that we are creating and innovating every day.
How was it working with Prescott as the narrator for this particular story?
White: Working with Dak Prescott was fantastic. Dak is truly invested in Bryce/Simba’s story. As Dak and I worked through the narration, he was adamant about having the correct cadence, inflection, and tone. Dak said he was going to work through the narration until it was right, and he did. Dak knows the significance of his platform. It was refreshing to watch him bring that passion to Bryce’s story.
Why did you want to cover the topic of mental health as a part of the Black History Always series?
Kazadi: Mental wellness is a topic I am very passionate about, especially in the numerous ways it impacts the Black community. Though there’s a lot more work to do, I think strides have been made towards ending the stigma. Now, I really want to see mental healthcare be more accessible so that those who need it most can get this essential help. Bryce Gowdy’s story really speaks to this point.
Why do you think it’s important to highlight this mental health in the Black community?
White: For many generations, Black people have been living with the stigma that we are stronger and capable of enduring more pain and trauma than other communities. Addressing mental health and normalizing it will help our people heal and create good mental health habits.