Brandon Winey

Trust Spotlights

Brandon Winey


Brandon Winey is a former NFL OT who was drafted in 2001 and played for several teams until he began his transition out of the game in 2006. Winey found himself a little lost once he stopped playing and began battling depression. Using mental health resources he has found a better way to tackle the things that challenge him.

What was your experience in the NFL like?

During my first year I started off with the Miami Dolphins, and then by the end of the year I was playing for Denver Broncos. That’s when it dawned on me that they say that this only lasts a possible three years and I might fall in that category. I realized that I've got to prepare to do other things – I need to start equipping myself for the future.

One of the first things I did was I made sure I saved every drop. I mean, I saved every drop! I didn’t go to the strip clubs. I bought some jewelry, I bought a watch, but that was it. I paid attention to how I spent every dollar.

I moved around a lot, played on a lot of different teams and, at first, I just thought it was cool to be in the NFL. You know, none of my friends had any friends play in the NFL, so it was like being the hero of the hometown. But because of switching teams so much, it started to become quite difficult.

It’s like you meet a whole set of people and they become your family – in football it’s about being a team and being loyal to that team and sometimes it takes a whole year to buy into what the team is trying to sell – So, you feel like that’s your home and then the next year you get moved around and you’re doing it all over again. I did that four times.

I was good in college, but once you get into the NFL everybody’s good. So, it don’t mean nothin', your previous awards don’t mean nothin'. From day one, I started paying attention. I knew it wouldn’t last forever.

The part that I miss about football the most is the guys. I don’t care too much about the football aspect of it, but the guys, you know, that’s what I miss so much.

The part that I miss about football the most is the guys.

When you got cut, what was going through your head?

When it happened for me, it was tough.

I was playing for the NY Giants, and the way I received the news, it was crazy – it was almost like a movie. It was 2004, and Hurricane Katrina was in Louisiana. My house was in Lake Charles so it caught Hurricane Rita. And I was so many miles away. I was where I didn’t have to worry about being in danger, but my whole family lives there. That was tough. You want to be there, but what can you do?

So, here I am in New York and I get a phone call, and it’s the team, they released me. And I was like, “Are you serious? Nah, y’all got the wrong number!” Just like that, I’m done. But my situation was different from a regular cutting. Because I don’t get on a plane and go … I can’t get on a plane and go. There’s no flights to Louisiana – there’s no flights to the south. So here I have to stay in this city, endure this city, until they figure out what they’re going to do with me, because I can’t go home.

That was one the toughest times in my life. I couldn’t pick up a phone and call my parents and tell them because noone’s phones were working. But, once I left football, I never looked back.

When did you start to notice that something was "off"?

Somewhere during my transition I went from being "nice-Brandon" to "mean-Brandon". A Brandon who had no patience; A Brandon who had no memory of what he said on Monday, even though it’s only Friday. And I couldn’t understand why. I used to call myself the "memory man," and I told people I had a photographic memory, I felt like I could remember everything.

But, I started realizing that I was forgetting more than I was remembering. At first I didn’t want to accept that it was me – It had to be them. But, then I realized maybe it is me. And once I decided that the problem was me, I started reaching out on the only platform that I had at the time, which was social media. You feel like you need that locker room. But you don’t have the locker room anymore, it ain’t the same.

Social media was a platform for me at a time in my life when those locker room doors were closing – I needed to find some kind of platform, and social media was it. I would get on there and I would basically just talk about what I was going through. And I had a friend that I played at LSU with and he said “Man, I’m going through the same stuff, call these people at The Trust.” I picked up the phone and called a

I had a friend that I played at LSU with and he said 'Man, I’m going through the same stuff, call these people at The Trust.' I picked up the phone and called and that’s how I got help.

What brought you to The Trust?

One of the things wrong with me was, I was mainly depressed. I didn’t know why I was depressed, but I was depressed. And my first conversation was with Qiana, from The Trust, and soon we were talking everyday. And she said, “Brandon we just need to get you some help, talk to some people you know and try to figure this thing out.” And I was ready, but I didn’t know how bad off I was.

It was like I was carrying an elephant on my back, that’s how tired I felt and how my legs hurt and how my body hurt. It just wasn’t natural. None of this was natural.

I would tell Qiana everyday how I just couldn't get out of this whole thing, how I’m stuck in my bed, I can’t get out. It’s 5PM and I haven’t eaten breakfast, lunch, nothing. I’m in a house with food, water, and everything. It’s not like it’s not there, I just can’t get out of my bed to go and do it. And so, after expressing this to Qiana over and over she was like, “Brandon you need to get down to New Orleans, they need to run some tests on you.” And that right there was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

So, I went to Tulane, and we go through the various tests and the results were mind boggling. After the first day of tests, I went to my hotel room and I bawled and cried. I was a grown man, crying.

The second day, same thing.

By the third day, I didn’t want to hear any more. I was like, "Stop talking to me. I don’t want to know any more." I think I was more comfortable not knowing, because when you know you can see the end of the road but when you don’t know there’s nothing there, you just have no idea so it seems easier.

When I left New Orleans, it was in February and I felt like I was worse off than I was when I got there. And for about two and a half months, I pretty much stayed to myself. I wasn’t talking to anybody.

I took home the binder with my results and brought it to my parents. This way they could read up on what’s actually going on, so they don’t have to keep asking questions that I don’t have answers to. It was a good thing for them, but for me, I didn’t look at it as being such a good thing at first. I was miserable.

"I was mainly depressed ... "
What happened after you visited Tulane University?

Through a situation with a female, I got into some other mess later down the line with a guy. And through the whole ordeal, there was an altercation, and I shot him. And, it was the craziest thing in the world 'cause I went from being “the man” to “the scum of the earth.” Not many people have probably been down that road before, but it's the kind of thing that is going to make you or break you. Add on to that all the other stuff I was dealing with – It was tough. Who do you turn to?

During the altercation I was hit with brass knuckles and incurred some head injuries in the process – I needed to go to the doctor. Can you imagine being in your hometown, being the "man" in your hometown, and then going to a doctor who refers you to another doctor, and once you get to that doctor’s office, because your name is being plastered on the news, the doctor refuses to see you? I couldn’t believe it, I thought he was lying. I thought it was against the law to refuse somebody. He refused me. He was a neurologist, and he was the only one in the city, and he refused to see me.

So, I had my court case going on that I’m dealing with, and I was trying to get medical attention, and nobody would see me. Then I remembered, just two months before, I had met these people down in New Orleans, at Tulane, and they seemed pretty cool. They seemed like family. And I remember thinking, "Should I call them?"

And for like a couple of weeks I was nervous, I was scared, nobody knows the real story, everybody thinks I’m guilty, nobody knows what's going to happen. They just know what they heard, what they read in the newspapers. So, I prayed and prayed on it. I asked God for direction, and one morning I woke up and I said, "I’m calling Dr. Stewart. I’m just going to talk to them and ask them." And I called Dr. Stewart and told him my situation, and he said, "Brandon, whatever we’re going to do, we are going to do it to help you. We don’t care about your outside troubles, we only care about you." And I’ll never forget that, because during that conversation tears ran down my eyes. The Trust and Dr. Stewart were there when no one else was. They never judged me, and when the grand jury dismissed the case they knew they had done the right thing.

"All these battles that are in your head of depression and all these other ailments ... "
Who have you turned to for support? How have they assisted you with your challenges?

Man, you have no idea, I get the chills every time I talk about this because it’s so real. But, the times that I was going through my worst times, my parents were there, but they had never dealt with this kind of thing before. They couldn’t be the parents that they had been my whole life. They didn’t know how to console me, all they could do was hug me and tell me they loved me. But The Trust had all the answers.

All these battles that are in your head of depression and all these other ailments that are going on in your head … man it’s tough. You want to give up, you don’t want to be here. But when I started talking about it and telling people what’s on my mind, and not being scared to say, “Yea, I think about killing myself everyday.” Once you can get over that hump, you’ve already won the war and you just don’t know yet.

Just talking and talking and counseling and counseling … And just paying attention.You got to be able to take your life and put it in someone else’s hands who cares about you and let them take the wheel – That’s what I did. I put my life in The Trust’s hands and said, “Here, y’all take the wheel, I’m done driving.” And from this point on, to today, they’ve been driving it and they’ve been driving me in the right direction and I have my seatbelt on, and I’ve been riding and I’ve been enjoying the ride.

They’re like guardian angels, they don’t know it, but they are. Because without the people at The Trust, I wouldn’t be here, and that’s for real. You know, I wasn’t scared to pull the trigger back then, and now I can see a whole different light. And I wouldn’t have ever seen it without The Trust … never. They had my back when nobody else did, they treated me when nobody else would, and they called and believed in me when nobody else would.

"I’m going to tell you how God works in mysterious ways ... "

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