Football great Herschel Walker spent time with basic cadets at the Air Force Academy to talk about resiliency. Jon Zanone has more. Also available in high definition.
For all his success – winning the Heisman trophy, a standout professional football career, a member of an Olympic bobsled team, even a mixed martial arts fighter – Herschel Walker has struggled with mental illness.
Herschel Walker: "I remember there was something on this shoulder saying 'Herschel people are going to quit disrespecting you like that.' Something over here said 'you know what, your parents didn't raise you like that' 'Oh yes they did' 'oh no they didn't ' ... These voices going off in my head - I thought I was losing my mind!"
Those voices were part of a mental illness called dissociative identity disorder. For Walker, it almost cost him his life.
Walker: "You know one of my favorite games I used to play was Russian Roulette. I used to put a gun in the center, spin it, put it on a table and ask people to challenge me. People would walk away and I thought they were scared. I put it to my head and pull the trigger."
The football star sought help. Now, he’s bringing a message of hope to basic cadets at the Air Force Academy – from the highs
Walker: "So I win the Heisman Trophy, and on my acceptance speech I say 'You know what, I feel like the Susan Luce of the Heisman Trophy. 'Cause I don't really deserve this. There's so many other people that deserve this. 'Cause we're a team at Georgia, we're not just individual players."
To the lows
Walker: "So this guy made me so mad, and I was working in law enforcement, I grabbed a gun, I was going to kill him."
Walker wants those struggling in silence to know there is hope.
Walker: So I think it my responsibility to reach back and tell someone, you know guys, I've been through it, you can do it too. But at the same time, you can do what you want to do, but you got to believe it. And that you can overcome."
For all the seriousness of his message, basics found time to pay tribute to the multi-sport athlete.
USAFA Cadre: "Let me see your Heisman!"
For Walker, the feeling is mutual, and he had a very direct message for those in the military struggling with mental illness.
Walker: "To love yourself first of all, Thank you second of all. And at the same time, you know what, don't be ashamed to ask for help - I did. And let me tell you, there's sometimes you think you can't make it, there's some times you don't know what's going to happen. But let me tell you, if you don't get help you going to help you loved ones, you can hurt your kids you can hurt so many more people than yourself. And at the same time you can hurt yourself. So that's one reason I say don't be ashamed to ask for help."
Jon Zanone, the United States Air Force Academy