GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Seven years removed from his time in Green Bay, you can still find former Packer Brandon Bostick on the sidelines. Except this time, he’s coaching youth football in Arizona.
It’s something Bostick was nervous about doing – not calling plays on the sidelines, but reaching out to his former teammate James Jones. Bostick saw Jones coaching youth football in Arizona and thought it would be a great opportunity for him.
“I hadn’t seen James since he left the Packers. When I first reached out to him, I was nervous because I didn’t know what was really going to happen,” Bostick said.
When the two former teammates reunited, it was a sense of hope for Bostick after just spending 30 days in a mental health facility.
“It’s like a second form of therapy for me”, Bostick explained. “It was good for me to just have a conversation with him about my career and the Packers. It’s good for me to just learn from him and be around those kids who look up to me, who learn from me, they don’t care about my mistakes, they just want to learn and be the best football player they can be.”
Bostick’s coaching pupils have to focus on learning and growing – just like he had to in 2012, when he had to be the best version of himself on the Packers practice field after not hearing his name called in the NFL Draft.
“My agent called me and said the seventh round, Pittsburgh Steelers called – “We’re going to take you.” I didn’t get too excited because you never know and you don’t want to get your hopes up,” Bostick said. “Seventh round came, Pittsburgh came, I looked at the screen and I’m like, “That’s not my name”.”
Bostick didn’t get drafted after playing D2 football for Newberry but then a call from Green Bay popped up on his phone. It was the Packers wanting him to come to Lambeau Field for a tryout.
“I never knew where Green Bay was,” Bostick laughed. “My life was all stress and worries. I was just trying to get in the league, at that point I didn’t even care that I didn’t get drafted. I just wanted a try-out, and I got my shot, and I took it and ran with it.”
Green Bay signed the newly converted tight end.
It was a three-year tenure that ended in a 2014 NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks. A loss that had Brandon Bostick in tears and would forever change his life.
With just over two minutes remaining in the 4th quarter of the game, Green Bay had a 19-14 lead when Seattle lined up for an onside kick. With just minutes remaining for what would have been the Packers’ second Super Bowl appearance in five years, Bostick’s receiving instincts took over the moment. Instead of blocking, he went for the ball and missed. Seattle recovered the ball and from there, scored its second touchdown in less than a minute of game time. That late rally resulted in a 28-22 overtime victory to send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl – and the Packers back home.
“Me playing as a receiver, or basketball, or knowing to get the ball, that’s what went through my mind. As the play goes on, I see a ball. I’m like ‘Go get the ball’, but at the time that wasn’t my assignment,” Bostick said. “I’m a receiver. I don’t block. I’m a receiver at heart and I’ve always played that growing up. So, at the time, I just made a split-second decision which wasn’t my assignment.”
It was an emotional roller coaster after the play that Bostick had never felt or had to deal with.
Hate mail, death threats, racist comments.
Looking at his phone was something Bostick always did after a game, whether it was good or bad. Knowing the magnitude of the situation, he didn’t turn to his phone at first sensing the hateful comments until it was time to finally face it.
“‘You should die. You should kill yourself.’ Just all the negative things you can think of that a person that’s angry would say,” Bostick recalled.
A month after the Packers loss in Seattle, his phone rang again – another 920 area code, but with a message unlike the one he received as an undrafted free agent in 2012. This time, it was the Packers telling him he’d been released.
“I talked to my agent. I was up in the air. I wasn’t a superstar. I was always the kind of on-the-fringe player, so I think that’s what took it over the edge. That big mistake. I don’t think they could bring me back to Green Bay in the locker room after that big of mistake,” Bostick said.
Bostick said he felt good about his exit interview after that 2014 season with former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. The two had a heart-to-heart about the play and Bostick’s standing within the organization, but the Packers’ decision to move on shocked him, nonetheless.
That’s when Bostick’s mental health started to move toward, what he described as “a deep place.”
“I started to not believe in myself, I started second guessing my skills, my athleticism, everything that I’ve acclimated,” Bostick said. “It was tough for me to continue my career. It’s still tough for me, I still get that stuff to this day.”
In the days, weeks, months, and even years after the 2014 NFC Championship Game, Bostick just thought he was sad – sad every day.
Bostick was depressed.
It wasn’t until during the COVID-19 pandemic when he realized that all the anxiety and sadness he felt in the last six years hit him hard. He went into a deep depression.
That’s when he admitted himself into a mental health facility in California.
“I was just at the bottom. Rock bottom,” Bostick opened up. “So, I went to a mental health facility in California. I went there for 30 days just to get the help I need and support. I got diagnosed with severe anxiety and major depression disorder.”
In his year and a half journey, Bostick found a therapist and psychiatrist to help fight his battle. All the anxiety and sadness he experienced every day for six years all started after the NFC Championship Game.
“Leading up to that game, you know, I’m in the NFL. I made it to that point where I wanted to be, it was a childhood dream. My mindset and body were in tip-top condition,” said Bostick. “I’ve never experienced that kind of pain or all of those different emotions in my body that I’ve never felt. I’ve never failed so hard in life. I’ve failed in life, but I’ve never went from the top to the bottom.”
One game away from the Super Bowl and four weeks later – jobless.
“I was a game from the Super Bowl, now I’m all the way back at the bottom. I don’t have a job, I don’t have a career, I don’t believe in myself, I was getting all this hate mail. I was at the bottom.”
After regular appointments with his therapist and psychiatrist, Bostick said it’s helped him find peace.
“I’ve found so much peace and clarity. So many different things I didn’t know about myself. Just so many qualities came from that moment,” Bostick explained. “It’s definitely been a silver lining for me. I don’t think I would’ve looked inward if that incident didn’t happen. That incident made me go back down to the basics. Get ahold of myself, remember where I came from, remember to love yourself, all the things that were raised in that incident reminded me of everything I had in me. So, I had to dig deep and find out who I am and I’m still on that journey today.”
Now, in 2021, Bostick is an advocate for mental health. Having conversations with friends, family, or even fans, he knows that being vulnerable about his journey and being outspoken has helped others in theirs.
“As long as I’m helping someone, that’s my goal. I’m just out here trying to help people on their journey because I know what it’s like to suffer from a mental illness and trying to live life at the same time. I’m just trying to do my part and help people along the way”, said Bostick.
With September being Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, more and more athletes are coming out to speak about their mental health. Bostick’s former teammate, Aaron Rodgers has continuously mentioned working on himself this past offseason and when Bostick saw the leader of the Packers speak out, it meant a lot.
“It was so good to see Aaron talk about mental health and how he’s meditating, how he’s being more present, and how he’s not letting things get to him on the outside world. So, it’s just good to see him be an advocate for it,” Bostick said.
Bostick, just 32-years-old, hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2016 and he’s come to terms with it all.
“I’m at peace with it. I still have problems with it. Some days I don’t feel good, I still have depression and anxiety symptoms. Those happen most of my days so that play will forever stick with me, but I’m at peace with it. I can still watch it, I watch football”, Bostick explained. “I like my routine. I like the path that I’m on. There’s no remorse. Of course, when it happened, I was in my feelings. I was sad. I was depressed. I regretted it. Everything happens for a reason. I’m still on this journey and I’m still trying to find the reason that thing happened.”
When Bostick reflects on his time with the Packers, he’s just thankful that the organization took a chance on an undrafted 23-year-old.
“I’m forever grateful for just even getting the opportunity to play for the Packers. One of the best organizations in the whole NFL. When I was there, I got treated like family,” Bostick explained.
Aside from coaching youth football with James Jones in Arizona, Bostick is close to opening his own mental health and wellness center for athletes in Denver, Colorado called ‘Sage Elite Healing’.
“It’s combined with mental health and physical training all in one. Just trying to help people grow and help people evolve in their journey, whether that’s athletes or someone that’s looking to take that next step in life”, said Bostick. “It should be up in the next two, three months, so I’m excited for that and that’s my next career.”