Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay had a rough start to the 2021 season.
After starting the season sidelined due to a toe injury, Gay was on track to make his regular season debut in Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills. However, his mental health nearly stopped that from happening, which he revealed on Twitter a couple of days before the primetime matchup.
Gay wound up getting back into the lineup, but never addressed the specific reasoning behind his mental health struggles. However, that has now changed, as Gay spoke about his mental health last season after Day 2 of mandatory minicamp in Kansas City.
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Gay’s Son’s Premature Birth Reason Behind Mental Health
Speaking to the media on June 15, Gay revealed the reason behind his mental health struggles last season.
“I learned from some things… I had my baby boy being born 16 weeks early,” Gay said. “He’s healthy now — doing good — so that’s some weight taken off my shoulders. So I just keep my head down, man, stay focused in this building, and try to keep everything outside of here in line and stay focused.”
Gay’s son was born on October 20.
The third-year linebacker further detailed where his mind was at early in the 2021 season.
“I just kept praying and staying strong. My teammates kept me encouraged… It was hard in the beginning of the season. When we played Tennessee, [I] caught the interception and it gave me a little bit of hope, I’m not gonna lie, because it was tough the first few weeks of the season. I just pray that this year will be a year — I know adversity will come, but just fight through it even more.”
Although Gay said that “a lot” of his teammates helped him through his struggles last season, he specifically named defensive tackles Khalen Saunders and Chris Jones, and safety Tyrann Mathieu as teammates that were very helpful throughout the process.
Gay Describes Brotherly Bond With Nick Bolton
2022 will mark the first season in which Kansas City’s linebacker room will be led by Gay and second-year linebacker Nick Bolton, the Chiefs’ rookie of the year for the 2021 season.
Gay detailed the strong chemistry he and Bolton have heading into their second season together.
“I know I’m older than him, but we both feed off of each other,” Gay explained. “He’s doing a great job. Just that chemistry, man. We feel like we’re brothers sometimes, you know? That’s how we treat each other, that’s how we interact with each other. Out on that field, we just keep the energy flowing. He does something good and I’m happy for him. I do something good and he’s happy for me. We teach each other — If I don’t know something he knows it (and vice versa). It’s just like that.”
Head coach Andy Reid echoed similar remarks about the linebacking duo.
“They’ve got a bond,” Reid said, via Charles Goldman of the Chiefs Wire. “They’ve known each other a long time, so they’ve got that natural thing that’s going on there. And they work at it, so I’ve liked what I’ve seen. I think both of them are much more comfortable with what we’re doing right now than what they were at the beginning of last year. It’s been so far so good. Productive. It’s been good. This camp has been good for those guys.”