Ten days ago, Emily Kelly published a long opinion piece in the New York Times titled, “I’m the Wife of a Former N.F.L. Player. Football Destroyed His Mind.” In it, Kelly outlines the way in which her husband, 43-year-old Rob Kelly, has struggled to live a normal life since leaving football 15 year ago.
Among the symptoms Mrs. Kelly wrote that her husband exhibited were:
After years of little to no sleep, he alternated between sleeping either three hours a night or 20. I’d wake up to find every blind and curtain in the house closed and Rob sitting on the sofa with a blank expression on his face. He no longer felt comfortable driving, refused to leave the house and cut off contact with everyone.
Specific details about how he wanted his funeral to be, and his demand that he be cremated, were brought up with excruciating frequency. One particularly dark time, he went five days without eating anything; he drank only water and a few swigs of chocolate milk. He was suffering deeply and barely surviving. My love and affection seemed to offer no comfort or solace. I felt helpless.
Emily Kelly said she found comfort in a Facebook group of more than 2,400 women with loved ones suffering through a similar existence in their post-NFL careers.
But Rob Kelly wasn’t just an NFL player (he played four seasons with the Saints and one with the Patriots before an injury ended his career in 2002), of course. A Newark, Ohio, native, Kelly played safety for Ohio State, helping the John Cooper-led Buckeyes win the Big Ten and defeat Arizona State in the Rose Bowl in his senior season of 1996.
And in the days since the piece was published, Emily Kelly says she’s heard from a number of people, but nothing from anyone with the Ohio State football program.
“It’s a little upsetting,” Emily Kelly told the Newark Advocate. “You’d think they would reach out. You’d think they would have (said) ‘What can we do? How can we help?”
For his part, Rob Kelly, who no longer watches football, said the intent of the piece was not to single any one group or individual out. Instead, it was to get across this one, sobering point: “We’re not trying to point the blame at anybody other than to say this isn’t a safe sport to play from when you’re 8 years old,” he said.