NFL re­turn is his new call of duty

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS 3.0 - By Mike Lo­presti Mike Lo­presti also writes for Gan­nett

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.

By Car­los Oso­rio, AP

Push: Quinn Pit­cock is try­ing to make the Lions.

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