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KJ Hamler returns, opens up about mental and emotional low point during recovery

Hamler: "At one point I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to be in this world. There was one point I just didn’t want to be on earth no more."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As it turns out, KJ Hamler’s activation from an injured list was considerably more admirable than a physical comeback from ACL and hip surgeries.

In discussing his limited participation in Broncos’ practice Monday for the first time since he suffered season-ending ACL and hip injuries in a game 3 win against the Jets on Sept. 26 last year, Hamler opened up about the mental and emotional issues he was dealing with that were far more serious.

“It’s been a tough journey to be honest,’’ Hamler told the media Monday. “There was just so much I was dealing with being piled up on top of each other. At one point, dealing with the ACL and little bit of more things, family situations. My love of my life passed, my grandmother. That was the toughest thing.

“The devil was on my back for a while. I wished I would have never did it by myself. I wish I would have asked for help. Because at one point in my life – I’m just being honest with you all because I’m more vulnerable and more confident in myself by saying it -- but at one point I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to be in this world. There was one point I just didn’t want to be on earth no more. Because I lost my granny and that really hurt me.

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Credit: 9NEWS
KJ Hamler on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.

“God gave me the strength to get out of there whole. He knew I was strong enough to get through. I didn’t feel like I was at the time. Getting out of there whole was very hard, very tough. Having all these things going on piling on top of each other it was a hard process. But to see where I’m at from where I started and where I’m at now, a big change. And I’m proud of myself and I know my grandmother’s proud.”

Hamler’s words should have resounded deep inside Broncos headquarters. Early in the Broncos’ 2010 season, second-year receiver Kenny McKinley took his own life after he became depressed following knee surgery, according to a report by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office.

The Broncos have taken several steps towards addressing mental health issues. They were one of the first teams to hire a full-time mental health specialist in Dr. Reine Evereteze. Led by Vice President of Player Development Ray Jackson, a former Colorado State cornerback standout, and team chaplain Reza Zadh, the Broncos have a comprehensive mental health and wellness program that also includes multiple psychologists on a contractual basis.

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Hamler underwent his ACL surgery in early October and he said it was about three months after that he began suffering from a deep bout of depression. On January 16 he posted photos of him with his grandmother with the words, "Got the worst call last night. I lost my number 1 girl."

Hamler said Monday that thinking about what his grandmother would have wished for him helped him gain mental strength.

“I think that’s the reason I’m still here,’’ Hamler said. “I had to think about that. Had to think about people I’d have let down. My mom, my dad, my family. But that was the lowest point in my life. Hands down, lowest point in my life. To see me dig out of it and then to start becoming vulnerable with people I trust and start opening up more … because we’re so used to bottling stuff up, taking it to the chin a lot.

“So I’m just learning day-in and day-out and I’m glad I’m still with the team. Got my family around and just being on the field has been a big help.”

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