Joey Julius was a college football folk hero who hated his folk hero status. The 5-foot-10, 258-pound kicker at one point ballooned to around 300 pounds, in part because he was a 5-foot-10, 258-pound kicker.
“Body image is my biggest struggle,” Julius said. “I think it’s one of the hardest things we deal with as human beings. I was a kicker on a football team, and you’d always hear, ‘He doesn’t have the typical kicker’s body.’ But I really did not have the typical kicker’s body. I was not built like a kicker. I literally looked nothing like I was ‘supposed’ to be.”
Julius left the Penn State football team earlier this month to focus fully on his ongoing eating disorder, and opened up about how deep his struggle is in a profile with espnW. As he tells the site, Julius has struggled with a depression related to his body image, which leads to binge eating, which only further fuels his depression. On and on it goes.
Julius said he first became aware he had a serious problem after a bad game against Illinois in 2015.
Two of his extra points had been blocked and a kickoff went sailing out of bounds before he was pulled from play that Halloween night. But he felt nothing — his depression had consumed him. Over the course of the next few days, the darkness drove him to the brink.
He never mentioned the attempted overdose to anyone outside of his therapist. He took the next week off, missing an away game against Northwestern.
“It wasn’t the start [of my depression], but it was when I realized that this was bad, really bad,” Julius says.
His disease hit a tipping point, though, in March, when he told Penn State athletics trainer Tim Bream he planned to kill himself.
Bream got in touch with Julius’s mother and sent him to Mount Nittany Medical Center. After six days in the psychiatric ward there, Julius departed for McCallum Place in St. Louis, an eating-disorder treatment center with programs that focus on males and athletes, where he had spent two months in treatment in 2016.
Julius is healthy now, for the first time in what his mother says is at least five or six years. No longer on the Nittany Lions’ football team, Julius is now focusing his efforts on helping other men deal with eating disorders.
“It was what I call my silent struggle,” he said. “I hated the way I looked always. I’ve never liked the way I looked, but I never talked about it until other people did. But I’m finally doing better now.”