Former Penn State kicker Joey Julius, who left the program last Tuesday, gave ESPN an incredibly personal account of the struggles that nearly caused him to end his life.
In an exclusive interview with Emily Caron, Julius discussed the internal battles he’s been fighting since he arrived on campus in 2014. The Hummelstown, Pa., native emerged as a fan favorite during his redshirt freshman season, earning the nickname “Big Toe” for his booming line-drive kicks.
But Julius, who led the Nittany Lions in touchbacks last fall with 45 as a kickoff specialist, didn’t let on that anything was bothering him until last October, when he published a post on Facebook revealing his binge eating disorder. Julius told ESPN that he first attempted suicide via overdose shortly after the Illinois game in 2015 — a contest in which he had two extra points blocked.
In May 2016, Julius took a two-month leave of absence from the team to seek treatment in St. Louis at McCallum Place — a center that specializes in male and athlete-specific eating disorders. Julius returned to State College before the start of last season. It would be a special year on the field for Julius, as he delighted college football fans across the nation with his signature thumping hits on kickoff coverage.
However, Julius continued to struggle with anxiety and severe depression as the year wore on. The following March, it got so bad that Julius contemplated suicide again after a medically monitored workout at the Lasch Building.
“I weighed myself, and I remember I had bumped up to like 300 pounds or something like that, and I was mortified. It set me over the edge. I knew this was the day,” Julius said. “I don’t know what it was, but something inside of me made me stay. Now I think it was the Lord saving me from myself.”
Julius immediately sought out head athletic trainer Tim Bream, who set up an emergency appointment at University Health Services. His mother rushed down to State College. After a few days at Mount Nittany Medical Center, Julius boarded a flight to St. Louis to return to McCallum Place.
Julius has shown tremendous bravery in combating the stigma that surrounds eating disorders and mental health in general. It’s unbelievably hard for men to open up about these issues, especially on a national stage like this.
“The end goal is just to get the knowledge in everybody’s hands,” Julius said. “It means that what I’m doing isn’t for nothing.”