Former NFL star Brandon Marshall leads the I AM ATHLETE (IAA) podcast crew on an emotional discussion centered on mental health as Chad Ochocinco, Channing Crowder and “Unc” Fred Taylor go deep in the latest season two continued special episode of IAA, touching on the recent tragic passing of former NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Ochocinco’s experience recently losing his mother, Paula.
This latest episode comes after IAA surpassed the one million views milestone on YouTube (currently over 1.7 million), for their previous episode that offered a rare and insightful interview with star NFL quarterback Cam Newton (watch HERE). The intriguing and wide-ranging interview shot the IAA subscriber total over an impressive 300,000 subscribers on YouTube as the podcast continues to increase in popularity and impact.
The episode begins with Marshall shining a light on one of the behind-the-scenes stars of IAA, Jersey Filmmaker company president and IAA director Anthony Seratelli, before Taylor gifts Ochocinco with some new gear from Ochocinco’s much-loved McDonalds.
Marshall then turns the conversation to the shocking death of former standout NFL receiver Vincent Jackson. Marshall, who is an avid and renowned advocate for mental health awareness, uses the opportunity to check in with the whole crew on their current mental health statuses.
“For me, as far as mental fitness, I’m at a 10 right now,” said Marshall. “Because I’ve been reconnecting with so many different people. Next week things may change. Not every week is going to be like that. But right now, I’m at a 10.”
Taylor jumps in to point out that as former football players, worries about the effects of CTE are constantly intertwined with thinking about their mental health.
“We all worry about CTE creeping in on us,” said Taylor. “I’m doing the best I can do. I have my moments where I have to slow down and look in the mirror and ask myself if I’m good. I’m lucky to have a really good support team and I think a lot of us need that.”
After Taylor recalls reaching out to Jackson ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, Crowder credits the IAA crew for helping him stay strong mentally on the business side, and how the preparation he takes for the show is a natural transition to him from how he used to prepare for NFL games. Eventually, Crowder addresses how his own thoughts about CTE creep into his mental health assessments.
“When I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I have to think, is that because of my football career? Or is it those other stressors?” said Crowder. “It makes it hard to put a number on it and I think a lot of players have that problem.”
Marshall reiterates the importance of having these conversations about mental health, and how it’s especially important to show black men that these are worthy conversations, before asking Ochocinco about his current situation, having recently lost his mother a month ago.
“It hurts to lose the person responsible for who I am,” says Ochocinco, who also says he’s at a seven as far as his personal mental health status. “Those memories will always be there. I have the memories both good and bad. I’ve learned through the ups and downs, that I have to find that happy medium and keep the pendulum from swinging too far in either direction.”
Crowder recalls his own struggles coping with his mother’s battles with cancer, eventually posing the question, “why don’t men talk to each other about stuff like this?”
“Our coaches always told us that we’re warriors,” responds Taylor. “So, we’re supposed to be tough. A lot of guys can’t separate the field from life. We’ve seen it before. That toughness carries over to real life. A lot of guys are too prideful to look weak. We’ve done a transparent job on this show of being real and showing our vulnerability. That’s why people are so engaged with the show.”
Marshall takes this opening to ask Ochocinco to share his experiences and ask what people can learn from him, prompting a series of light-hearted stories about his late mother. This includes a tale of a mock funeral for Ochocinco on a “Celebrity Rehab” television show and also discussion of one of their last exchanges, where his mother sent a long series of texts “letting me have it”.
“If that exchange had been her saying I love you or some sort of goodbye, it wouldn’t have been true to who my mama was,” said Ochocinco. “That’s what I’m used to. That gave me peace.”
In a touching moment, Marshall reiterates that him and the crew are here for Ochocinco and they all come together for an emotional group hug.
To close the episode Chef Nancie serves the crew jerk shrimp with rice and peas, plantains and soy ginger green beans, while also sharing her own experience with loss, talking about her late brother, who passed away 19 years ago.
Finally, Pastor Rese from the Abundant Life Church says a prayer with the crew before the credits roll to end another insightful, engaging and emotional episode of IAA.
Flip the page for the full episode.