COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Sixteen years have passed since former Ohio State football quarterback Troy Smith helped lead the Buckeyes to victory against Notre Dame.
After taking on Dublin native and Irish quarterback Brady Quinn in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, Smith helped the Buckeyes win by 34-20, leading him to earn the Heisman Trophy a year later. But since that moment, it’s been up and down for Smith — and it’s taken a toll on his mental health.
“The journey that I’ve embarked on is seriously getting rid of a lot of the different things that I was taught growing up because now they don’t work in this form of life,” Smith said.
For two full seasons, Smith was the talk of the town and the nation. The quarterback of the Ohio State Buckeyes is a pressure-packed position for someone to be in. But Smith excelled, winning 22 games from 2005-06, leading the team to the national championships game and winning the Heisman Trophy.
But at the next level, Smith said success did not come as easy.
“Same things at times that can build an athlete up are the things that can possibly tear them down when things aren’t ideal,” he said.
Smith’s professional career never really took off. He was taken in the fifth round of the NFL draft after being picked apart by scouts and analysts about his size and skills.
He started in just eight games over four years in the NFL, and along the way, his mental health suffered, impacting him on and off the field.
“Along the way with sports, you’re just taught as an athlete, that at times, to be incredibly sheltered,” Smith said. “And you have a certain group of people that you’re supposed to talk to and divulge information but then at times, that tunnel can be a scary tunnel because if you get labeled a specific way, it’ll never leave.”
This season, he’s running a charity auction, where people can bid on experiences to spend gameday with him and other Buckeyes at the biggest home games of the season. And some of the proceeds benefit the Jeffrey Schottenstein Program for Resilience, which supports students and provides them the tools for mental health wellness.
“Specifically not battle with mental health because it’s not about a battle. That’s a negative,” Smith said. “It’s about understanding and seriously conquering whatever version of things you need to conquer.”
Click here for more information about the Heisman Charity Auction.