Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week. Weird, huh? But on Tuesdays, media members get to sit down in an informal setting and talk to assistant football coaches and players. There’s something about the postgame press conference – whether it’s just having played a game or being up there with all the cameras – that lends itself to more formality.
But Tuesdays are different. Usually, with just 2-3 media members present, we discuss topics that won’t come up in the post-game. Players, not staring at a bank of cameras and knowing they’re not in an interview room, drop their guard and talk. Assistant coaches offer insight into their players, their roles within the team, and the personal relationships with the guys in their position group room.
the daily #100 | 11/8/2023 | Archives
This season, UH’s first in the Big 12, GoCoogs.com has published the daily each day since August 1. Check the archives above for past topics. We’ll continue the daily until basketball season ends. Today, for our 100th edition, we will talk about mental health.
As luck would have it, we talked to linebackers coach Archie McDaniel and LB Treylin Payne on Tuesday. Payne had his first start of the year last week at Baylor in place of an injured Jamal Morris. Payne proved himself worthy of a starting spot with a monster game and will get more snaps going forward. With Morris coming back this week, it will be interesting to see how McDaniel puts the pieces together.
Speaking of Morris, McDaniel and Payne went head-first into the topic of mental health and their brother Jamal.
“His well-being as a man, as a football player, as a father, as a great person in society, is important to me. Just as with all our players,” McDaniel said Tuesday.
“I’ve probably learned more from Jamal Morris than he’s learned from me, and he has no idea about that,” McDaniel said. I read his article, and his words really really touched me. It’s a mutual love and respect between both of us.”
“He’s been a great role model,” Payne said about Morris. “Great guy, in general. He stands on what he says. He’s not one of those people who tell you one thing and not do it himself. He’s gonna try to lead the right way.”
Payne credits Morris for helping him through some tough times. Both McDaniel and Payne were great interviews, and we’ll be writing more about them soon. But today, for #100, I wanted to circle back and bring our spotlight back to mental health in athletes.
As recently as a couple of years ago, football players could not be open about depression and everyday mental health struggles around their teammates. The tide is changing, though, and UH assistant coaches are leading the way in building a support system.
In August, McDaniel led the linebacker room through an exercise for players to share their feelings with their teammates. He asked them to consider how they can go to war with somebody if they don’t know what drives him. When Jamal opened up to his teammates, he was unsure how it would go. His teammates responded with love and respect and now know what he needs when his mind turns dark.
When his essay came out, Morris was worried about how teammates outside the linebacker room and other athletes and friends would take it. But he says, “The words of encouragement and props I’ve been getting from this is unreal.”
Jamal took a big step for athletes at UH. He was the first to come out of the shadows and discuss the unique mental health challenges that athletes face. He’s made it easier for others to be open. And his teammates and coaches appreciate him for it.
“At first, I was second-guessing myself, but I’m glad I did it,” Jamal told me recently. I’m glad he did it, too.
Watch McDaniel’s and Payne’s full comments on Jamal Morris: