October 26, 2023   3 MIN READ

“I Needed Help”

Gunn On One: Marcus Smith Wants To Save Struggling Pro Athletes


A phone called saved Marcus Smith’s life.

Two phone calls, actually.

Smith, a pass rusher and 2014 first-round pick of the Eagles, had been coaxing his career back to respectability with Seattle after flaming out early from three unproductive seasons in Philadelphia.

Even after re-signing with the Seahawks on a one-year deal following a respectable 2016 season, Smith couldn’t identify an emptiness he felt inside, a gripping feeling that one August morning inexplicably convinced Smith to navigate his vehicle off the side of a rocky ledge not far from Seattle’s training facility.

“I’m literally turning my wheel to go off this … almost like a cliff,” Smith recalled to Inside The Birds’ Derrick Gunn on the most recent “Gunn On One.”

marcus Smith

ITB Photo: Former Eagles OLB Marcus Smith talked to Derrick Gunn about his work in the mental health space.

“By the time I pulled that way, my wife called me,” Smith continued. He was on the precipice of another attempted another drive-off before his mother-in-law called.

“By the time my mother in law calls me, I’m at the bottom of the hill, close to the Seattle Seahawks facility. That’s when it clicked that something is really wrong with me. After that point, that’s when I really decided to say, ‘Hey man, I need some help.'”

Years later, Smith is helping athletes avoid going down the same destructive path he nearly drove his car into on that summer morning in Seattle.

Smith’s “Circle Of M” foundation is his non-profit agency devoted to unmasking mental health struggles for athletes and to raise awareness and bring advocacy about the importance of mental health.

Smith is having the uncomfortable discussions about mental health that he avoided in the masculinity of the locker room.

“A lot guys are hurting in the locker room, mentally, but you’re not going to go to the next guy and tell them your weakness, because we just feel like that weakness is used against us, whether it’s on the practice field or upstairs,” Smith said.

“I never wanted anybody to think that I was mentally weak or not ready to play. I already had a target on my back [being a first-round pick]. I already wasn’t playing well.”

Smith spoke to Gunn about his Eagles career, playing in the Philadelphia fishbowl, and recent support and advocacy about mental health from prominent pro athletes, including Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson.

By sharing his story, and working with his agency, Smith hopes to inspire change.

A phone called prevented Smith from taking his life. One of his agency’s objectives could do the same for someone else.
Said Smith: “I want to save as many guys as I can.”

– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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