Survivor Stories
Reggie Walker

A retired NFL football player, Reggie is looking ahead to a Master’s in counseling and to helping other athletes who are confronting histories of sexual violence.

A retired NFL football player, Reggie has had an ambivalent relationship to the game. Football was his therapy for years when he thought he had no option other than to bottle up the pain and anger that stemmed from nearly a decade of sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend. But eventually football became a trap, a game that bound him to violence that he no longer needed or wanted.

Reggie’s role in his family was the “glue,” the one who mediates disputes, the one who picks up everyone when they get down. So there was no room for Reggie to deal with the abuse.

“Luckily I found football.” It was a place where you could be as violent as possible and it was not frowned upon. In fact, violence on the football field was exalted. “I had so much anger, so much rage inside me. And depression, and sadness. Football was the place where I could let it out and then never have to deal with it again.” He played the game with abandon.

He played college football at Kansas State, and the pressure inside him was building. He drank a lot to help keep it down. He was deeply depressed, chronically suicidal, but he hid his pain from everyone, including his teammates.

Reggie’s breakthrough came while he was playing in the NFL. He had been falling apart all that day, and finally he just couldn’t hold it together. He went to bible study after practice and asked Pastor Chad, “Can I talk to you?” Pastor Chad listened, and got Reggie in touch with a counselor, and so began Reggie’s climb out of darkness.

Each year he played in the NFL Reggie realized more fully how football had always been his way of covering up his pain. After a six year career, he decided to walk away. Reggie returned to Kansas State University, this time purely as a student, to complete his undergraduate degree. His sights are now firmly set on earning a master’s degree in counseling, and on helping other athletes to climb out of darkness.