Updated 02/14/2013 06:14 PM
College football great talks life and mental health with soldiers
He was recently named college football's greatest running back ever. Herschel Walker was a star on the field, but his life off the field was falling apart. Only he didn't know it. Walker was suffering from a mental illness. As our Brian Dwyer reports, he took his story to Fort Drum Thursday to let soldiers know that no matter what's going on, it's okay to ask for help.
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FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- He was on top of the world. A national champion, a Heisman Trophy and an NFL star. But for all his success, Herschel Walker's personal life was the exact opposite. He actually never liked football and still doesn't. He never understood why he played.
And after football, he'd start doing things. He did scary things that would terrify his wife. Some of them, he couldn't even remember.
"I didn't understand it. I didn't know it was," Walker said.
Walker recalling a time in his life he was obsessed with Russian roulette. He knows he wasn't suicidal. So what was it?
Walker's wife was able to help convince him to get help. It turned out Walker suffered from what's commonly known as multiple personalities.
"If I had not gotten help and my name is Herschel Walker," Walker said. "If I had not gotten help and I've never drank. I've never had a drug before in my system, but there's no doubt in my mind I would have killed myself."
The gun to the head? It was a coping mechanism. His drug. A competition to bury his illness. His reason for playing football.
"Football was a coping mechanism," Walker said. "I think that's what people have to realize. Sometimes alcohol or drugs is a coping mechanism that you're dealing with something else."
Walker says he owes his and his wife's life to the decision to get help.
"People would have put it on concussions," He said. "People would have put it on this or that. But what happened was I had a mental problem."
It's a message Walker now brings to military installations across the country, including Fort Drum Thursday. As soldiers come home, a different person than the one who left.
"Don't be ashamed to ask for help. I did," Walker told a crowded room of soldiers. "You're not less of a person. Don't be ashamed. I'm not ashamed."
A message that really hit home.
"A problem like PTSD. They sometimes say, 'I don't have a problem.' That's until somebody else comes to them and says, 'Hey, you have a problem. You need to get checked out before you hurt yourself or somebody else," Sergeant Michael Thomas said.
"My mother is a paranoid schizophrenic," SSG Natalie Woughter said. "To me I'm always looking for something to inspire me in life and having someone like that here today, I think it helps the Army realize there are other people out there who have had problems who can get over their problems."
Walker says his true love was the military. He always wanted to be a Marine. This is now his way to live that dream in a way and more importantly help those who did.
Walker has a nephew who is currently serving in Iraq. His name is Shawn Walker.