Percy Harvin lit up the NFL with 29 touchdowns in his first four seasons with the Vikings, and then virtually fell of the map over the next four years before calling it a career.
Harvin, Minnesota's first-round pick in 2009, was an open book about his struggles with anxiety in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
“I’m cool with you asking whatever you want. Failing a drug test. The fights. ’Cause it’s gonna help somebody," Harvin is quoted as saying in the lengthy description of his fall from football grace.
Harvin, still just 30 years old, told SI that NBA stars Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan going public with their struggles with anxiety helped him do the same. But for him, it was his drive to be perfect that hurt him both personally and professionally.
He used a time he was caught on TV cameras screaming at former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier as an example, saying quarterback Christian Ponder missed him on a potential touchdown pass that drove him over the edge.
“The best way I can describe it is that I felt ‘out of body,’” Harvin said of his anxiety attacks. “My heart would be going, I’d be sweating, I felt like everybody in the room was looking at me. My speech was slurring. I didn’t wanna eat. I was gasping for air. You’re so worked up that it’s hard to spit words out.”
Harvin claimed he rarely slept and hardly ever ate leading up to games with the Vikings, Seahawks and Bills.
He noted that his anxiety is linked to migraine headaches that have plagued him since he was 7 years old, equating the pain from a migraine to repeated bashing of a hammer against his head.
Harvin now lives in Gainesville, Florida, where he often tries to guide football players from the University of Florida, his alma mater, in the right direction.