|Photo: Jeff Sawatzky|
The highest of highs, you'd think.
Just a few months later Sheets - a free agent - spurned a lucrative offer from the Roughriders to sign with the NFL's Oakland Raiders for a few thousand dollars more. The following August, on national television at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Sheets popped his achilles tendon in a preseason game against the Packers and his career was over. In the blink of an eye.
That's when the regrets, the demons, and the downward spiral began.
|With Sheets in Regina in June/2019 Photo: Jeff Armstead|
"I wanted to either stay in Saskatchewan or go pursue my dream," the former Dolphin, 49er, Raider and Rider said. "Honestly, I left over $20,000 and now I'm sitting here saying 'man, that's stupid!' Everyday.
"I see a therapist now because I deal with mental health issues and she asked me what my biggest regret in life is.
"I was like, 'Honestly, arguing over $20,000'. I literally left Canada, where I likely should've stayed, because they wouldn't give me an extra $20,000. I could've made that up off the field (in endorsements)! Hindsight's 20/20, you live and you learn, don't sweat the little stuff."
So just a scant six months later, Sheets' career was pinched off when it was potentially at the apex. He knew the second he heard a 'pop' near his ankle that he'd suffered a second severe achilles tendon injury. The Tampa Bay product waved off the trainer's cart and walked off on his own strength, admitting to himself that his days under the lights were over.
"That's another regret," Sheets winced. "I let go of the ball. So my last carry in the NFL was a damn fumble. When it popped, I thought 'Oh no, not this again'. And it was over."
You've likely heard the stories or seen the stats about how 75% of retired NFL'ers are broke, many have taken their own lives or attempted it, and their lives have completely fallen apart.
Kory Sheets is one of them, and he bravely bared his soul on the matter in an attempt to help others.
"For me after football I went through a big stage of depression where it was bad," the 34-year old detailed. "I got committed, and stayed in a facility for five days. That whole domestic violence thing I went through, I like to talk to people about that because there's a misconception about how that went.
"I was in pain through my career, and I took it out on the person that I loved, which was all bad. I think people do that a lot and don't understand where it's coming from. The partner thinks you're mad at them but really they're just a punching bag (metaphorically speaking). They could have nothing to do with what's going on in their partner's life but it's taken out on them. That's what was going on with me."
So how did that situation get resolved?
"She left me!" Sheets blurted. "That wasn't so much of a wakeup call but it forced me to face my biggest fears. It was my girl leaving me, my career was over, having another surgery, I had to move back into my parents' house, everything I didn't want to do in life. I thought, 'Alright, something's gotta give. Clearly, what I'm doing's not helping'. And I reached out and got help. I think more people should do that."
In the Recovery world, we often refer to the term "rock bottom". Anyone who's repaired their life has one. Where was Kory Sheets' rock bottom in this story?
"It was an attempted suicide," Sheets admitted. "I saw the pain in my parents, my sisters and my best friend and all I was doing was making them cry. I was tired of seeing me hurt the people I love. I needed to go get help, and that's what I did."
Forget about facing 300-lb frothing-at-the-mouth defensive linemen or blocking blitzing linebackers. This moment took the most courage Kory had ever mustered.
"It was a long drive to the hospital. I drove myself there and they asked, 'What's going on?' and I said 'I need help'.
The euphoria that comes on the other side of life begins when you tackle your demons head-on. No more running away. And life becomes a whole lot easier after that.
That's where Kory Sheets finds himself today.
"Yeah I've moved on but it's moreso like, have you ever faced your biggest fear in life?" Sheets asked, to which I nodded yes. "It's like, what the hell you got any fear for now? The worst thing I could've ever imagined, I done went through it already! And I'm still here. Nothing can really faze me now."
Just as happy for Kory Sheets is his family, who knew they couldn't do anything till Kory decided to help himself.
"They were just happy seeing me try to get better because they were watching me beat myself down and tear myself apart," Sheets surmised. "But they couldn't help me. They didn't know how, they didn't know why or what was going on with me because I didn't talk to people. Most men don't talk to people about their feelings.
"And I think that needs to change."
Sheets has a message for anyone who finds themself in a similar situation, and is wondering if there's a way out. It's not hopeless.
"You're not alone," Sheets concluded. "We're all struggling out here. Life is hard whether you're rich, poor or in the middle. Just talk to somebody and don't be afraid to reach out and get help. I promise you it's there and your loved ones will want to help you."
For more information on Kory Sheets or to book him for your event, visit his website at https://www.sheets24k.com.
(Rod Pedersen is a Recovery Coach in Sports, Entertainment & Military. He spent 20 seasons in the CFL as a Hall of Fame broadcaster.)