Professional athletes are given what many would consider the opportunity of a lifetime. For a short period of time, these athletes seem to have the world at their fingertips, but how do they cope with the drastic lifestyle changes they experience when it’s all over? In this exclusive interview with former New Orleans Saints wide receiver D’Juan Woods, he shares some insight on his experience during and after his career as a pro athlete. “My entire upbringing was built on the foundation of teamwork, competitive drive, and commitment …that was what football provided for me and my brothers. When it was gone, I wasn’t sure how to adjust. In some ways, I would say I am still adjusting.”
D’Juan Woods started playing football when he was 4 years old and eventually earned a scholarship to Oklahoma State University. He entered the NFL in 2007 and in 2009 his career was ended suddenly, due to a spinal injury that left him with restricted mobility and severe nerve damage. “After my injury, they told me I would never play again…when you’re in the zone it feels like you’ll be there forever, and then in the blink of an eye it’s gone.” According to Woods, he saw four specialists before the reality set in that his NFL career was over. Rather than having surgery, Woods relied on the prescription medications provided to him by his team doctor. “They gave me a few different prescription drugs that changed the chemistry of my body on a physical and emotional level.”
Woods admits that he formed an addiction to these prescription drugs that compounded with the depression of his career ending, left him feeling extremely vulnerable and alone for almost four years after his injury. According to the Washington Post, the NFL is suspected of violating federal laws governing the use and distribution of prescription drugs.
“Despite my injury, I remembered how I had always overcome adversity. I had to have the same mentality I went into this with…that of a lion.” Although Woods was not able to continue his NFL career, he was able to recover from his addiction and he has developed a successful career as a personal trainer and sports performance specialist. He gives credit to prayer, and holistic and plant-based healing practices for getting him back on his feet and healing his mind, body, and spirit.
“I have so many friends and former teammates who have had similar experiences…It’s not just me. This is a big problem but I believe it can be prevented through education and accountability from these teams.” Woods says has not given up hope for the future generation of upcoming athletes and that he is thankful for what he has learned from his experiences so that he can share his knowledge.
“If you can figure out how to get the physical, mental, and spiritual all in alignment then you can accomplish anything….that’s part of my job as a trainer and performance specialist.”
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