KENNESAW - Last fall, Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst opened up about his struggles with depression in a piece on the team's website. While he had talked about those topics in the past, that video attracted a huge amount of attention, helping propel his charitable efforts to expand awareness about mental health, especially among young people.
"It has been an absolute whirlwhind, in a good way," said Hurst.
On Monday, Hurst hosted a charity golf tournament and auction benefitting the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation, which raises awareness of mental health issues in children and adolescents. Fellow Falcons players including Grady Jarrett, friends from the University of South Carolina and more came out to show their support. After the event was over, several people who had family members deal with depression and its consequences spoke about their own experiences.
Hurst says, since the video about his own struggles was first posted, he's received countless messages from people facing the same challenges. He says he still gets messages -- as do his family members featured in the video and the social media pages of his foundation -- about six months after the story first came out.
"For me, when I get the feedback and people reach out, they say, 'hey, I saw the video, it crossed my timeline and I decided not to kill myself today,'" said Hurst. "What more can you ask for? That's why I do it, that's why I continue to do it. If it's saves one life, and our family with the foundation."
Hurst is also getting ready for his second season playing for the Falcons. He's excited about the team's potential under new head coach Arthur Smith, whose offense has a reputation for effective use of tight ends.
"Very excited," said Hurst. "I know he uses tight ends in a certain way, has helped guys with their careers get contracts and stuff like that. I would say I'm ready for whatever, use me in whatever way you see fit. I want to utilize my talent and help the team win."
Hurst also said he does not see the Falcons as being in a rebuild mode, and that perhaps a new voice will be exactly what the team needs.
In the meantime, he hopes his foundation, and message, can be exactly what a young person needs, as so many people deal with challenges Hurst faced himself.