Bears’ David Montgomery on mental health openness: ‘All I got was love’

LAKE FOREST, Illinois – When David Montgomery runs, he runs like he has something to prove. He’s hard to take down. He fights for the distance. He has carried the Bears attack at times.

But what you can’t see is what Montgomery was carrying.

On Aug. 3, during a regularly scheduled post-workout media event, Montgomery gave an inside look at the mental health issues he’s experienced over the years.

The response was huge, as fans everywhere expressed their support for Montgomery – not the dwindling, the person.

“I’ve gotten a lot of love from people all over the world,” Montgomery said the athletic this week. “People were reminded that, like I said, I’m human, and they took a step back and understood that I was human and appreciated me for that. That felt good too.”

Not too long ago, Montgomery probably wouldn’t even have felt comfortable opening up. Instead, it helped him and will help others who listen.

“Because we are men, especially I’m an African American man, going there and expressing myself and where I was in my mental and my life around that time, it’s hard to do,” he said, “but I got nothing but love and appreciate everyone who came out and still supported me for who i am.”

Montgomery didn’t shy away from frustration during his rookie season. He ran off angrily and when the production didn’t come, he was disappointed.

But he took that home. The 2019 Bears struggled immensely and he became an example of the disappointment of the offense.

And Montgomery, like any 22-year-old professional athlete, couldn’t ignore social media.

“My first year and a half it probably played the most important part because I wasn’t having much success and I cared about what everyone thought until I realized it didn’t matter, which was a big burden off my shoulders,” he said. “I didn’t care what anyone had to say about me, bad or good. I stayed away from it a bit.

“Ultimately, the people who (were talking) about me can’t do what I do, and I understand that.”

But the bad days piled up. Unlike in the state of Iowa, where Montgomery could distract himself with class and the other planned elements of college life, he had more free time.

Eventually, he realized that the bad days “keep happening.”

“It affected my family back home, my girl, just because I took it home,” he said. “I took a stance on myself and said, ‘I need to get better and change for my family.'”

Montgomery describes it as “a rough time for me mentally” before acknowledging that he was depressed, at least in part. He spoke to his girlfriend, Tatum Causey, and his mother, Roberta Mitchell. They figured out what Montgomery should do next.

He started talking to professionals. He saw the value in therapy. It enabled him to “unpack the heavy burden I was already carrying”.

“It’s okay not to be okay, but the part that makes it okay is when you understand you’re not,” Montgomery said. “Sometimes we lie to ourselves when we say we’re okay, sometimes we’re not. Just being able to express yourself and say to yourself, ‘It’s not going well,’ you have to mentally get all those thoughts out of you.’

Things also started to change with the way Montgomery practiced. His work ethic has always been an important part of his game, but he no longer took the negatives home with him.

“I try not to hold onto things for as long as I did,” he said. “I used to hold on to a lot of things that I screwed up on the field when I was a rookie. Now I understand that it is football, you have to flush things, continue to enjoy your day and your life with things that don’t always go the way you want.”

Bears Running Back David Montgomery said discovering he’s going to be a father “changed my whole perspective on everything.” (Matt Marton / USA Today)

A few days after his 25th birthday, Montgomery found out he was going to be a father. When Causey showed him the pregnancy test, he didn’t believe it. It took him a minute to get the realization, “Oh snap, I’m about to be a dad.”

Then he accompanied her to her first doctor’s appointment and heard the heartbeat.

“I’m like, ‘Okay, it’s real now,'” he said. “I was really excited.”

Montgomery brought that up in late July, the first time he spoke to the media since he got the news. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and while he’s not worried about it or what he’s going to talk about in financial terms, he knows there’s more at stake.

“It’s changed my whole view of everything,” he said. “I also had to understand, I still have a job to do. Now it just reinforces what I want to do and what I want to achieve for myself and for my team now that I have someone to look up to me.”

Montgomery rushed for 849 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games last season. He also had 301 receiving yards. He goes into 2022 as one of the more reliable players in the Bears offense, someone who runs the ball often.

Every time he gets the ball, he will still run like someone who has been through a lot, but now he will run with a new perspective. There’s someone else he’s chasing.

“I just play the only way I know,” he said. “My life is kind of like it’s carved to be what it’s like to play the way I play. It is this way or no way. I can’t give everything I have. What’s the point of doing it if I’m not?”

Chase Allen was in Montgomery’s recruiting class in the state of Iowa. He is now a rookie with the Bears, while Montgomery is one of the veteran leaders.

Like many in Halas Hall, Allen saw and listened to what Montgomery said on August 3.

“That’s just David. That’s the David I’ve known for six years now,” he said. “I think it was a great opportunity for him to spread that message. It’s so true what he says and preaches. We need more guys like David to express that in sport.”

Montgomery said players told him how much they appreciated the way he opened up and expressed himself. Some even told him that they are in a similar situation.

“To me,” he said, “it’s a barrel, so I can help them too.”

Among those who took pride in the way Montgomery used his platform was his biggest fan, his mother.

“She’s proud that I’m just here in the building and that people know her son,” he said. “Any chance I get to go up there and tell my story is always proud of being a part of it.”

Montgomery is often calculated and factual in the way he talks about football, and he is similar in the way he talks about mental health. He understands the importance and seriousness of someone of his stature speaking up. His ultimate message to all who watch, listen and read what he has experienced reflects that.

“That it’s okay not to be okay,” he said, “but if you’re not, talk about it so you can come up with a blueprint to help yourself and everyone else around you.”

(Top photo: Charles LeClaire/USA today)

Leave a Comment