NFL return is his new call of duty
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — There is nothing in the dark for Quinn Pitcock to hide anymore. Not the anxiety that once drove him out of professional football, nor the video game addiction that once devoured his days.
His life — and perhaps his career, if he can only win a job with the Detroit Lions — is in a new chapter. Recovery meant talking to experts; candid, unblinking, self-revealing. Talking helped him get better.
And so you ask him after a Lions practice about the quick getaway from the Indianapolis Colts, after his rookie season in 2007. He tells of the depression that he now realizes was born even before the Ohio State days.
“For some reason, it was too much on my shoulders,” he said. “So I dropped it and ran.”
You ask about regrets. He has them, at 27.
“Looking back, at the time, I wished someone would have grabbed me and thrown me into a car and gotten me some help right away. But what has happened happened for a reason. I got help, and I’m here where I am now.”
Now, he is facing the realities of numbers in an NFL training camp, trying to catch on as defensive tackle with a team that has lots of them: “I’m shooting for the moon, the stars, the clouds.”
You ask what a typical day was like in his apartment in 2008, when he fought demons as old as depression and as modern as video games, and his hyperactive mind could be stimulated by every electronic come-on. He gives you his itinerary.
“Not shower for a couple of days. This is how I was at my worst, when I knew it was bad and was trying to quit. I probably slept in until 3 o’clock. I’d wake up and have nothing going on. I’d maybe get one fast-food meal for the day, and play until the next morning — 18, 20, 22 hours. I’d get lost in it.”
The selection was usually Call of Duty, with its simulated combat. “My drug of choice,” he said.
You ask about his feelings then. He shares them.
“I’d be so mad. I knew it was wrong, so I’d break the game. I’d burn them, microwave them, set them on fire. Then I’d pass out, wake up, look around, have nothing to do, and go right back to the store and get another game.”
You ask about the woman he met, who helped him understand something had to change. He’ll tell you how, though he won’t give a name.
“She didn’t know for the first three months. When she’d sleep, I’d play all night long, then go to bed before she woke up. Then sleep all day while she was at work and start playing again before she came home.”
Soon, she caught on and helped Pitcock fight the fight. He eventually wanted football back and had a shot with the Seattle Seahawks last season but was one of the last cuts. “A heartbreaker,” he said.
Kevin Hollabaugh, a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Indiana University Health Sports Performance, said over the phone that Pitcock arrived early every day for offseason workouts, toiling through the most miserable of Midwest summers, hoping for another opportunity. The Lions called.
“He’s a genetically gifted individual,” Hollabaugh said. “I never brought up what happened in the past. I don’t know if we ever talked about it once. I just wanted him to focus on what he could do now.
“I think he views this as his last shot. If he messes this up, he has to move on and try something else.”
You ask Pitcock about those chances. He gives a sober assessment. “There are still some people out there with a trust issue with me. . . . They’re afraid maybe I’ll snap one day and walk off. They always say history repeats itself. But I’ve had a longer history of doing well.
“I’m going to keep pushing.”
So an unusual journey goes on. At home is the woman who helped him, and a Wii game system that hardly ever gets used.
Push: Quinn Pitcock is trying to make the Lions.