Hayden Hurst Family Foundation
Here at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Centerstone we are grateful for the generosity of others and their commitment to our mission of delivering care that changes peoples’ lives. The Hayden Hurst Family Foundation is a wonderful example of that united front. Created by NFL Tight End, Hayden Hurst, the Cohen Clinics at Centerstone are honored to work alongside the foundation in its efforts to break down the stigma surrounding mental health care and provide hope to those in need. Here is a closer look at the inspirational story behind the Foundation’s creation.
He faces down giants without batting an eye. The biggest and strongest defensive linemen the NFL has to offer, they don’t scare him. Bring ‘em on. Carolina Panthers tight end, Hayden Hurst, has faced down worse and he isn’t afraid to stand up and say it. In fact, he and his family are doing all that they can to make a statement – one of resilience and hope – one about growing up and growing through mental health concerns – one that promotes pushing through the struggle and fighting to make it to the end zone.
Measuring 6’4” himself, and weighing in at 245 lbs, many would assume that 2018 first round NFL pick Hayden Hurst had it all. He was a natural athlete, both on the diamond and on the football field and he had a family that made up his biggest cheering section. Yet, what no one would guess is that Hurst’s toughest opponent would battle him on a completely different field – his own mind.
“I can’t really explain it. It’s hard to unless you go through it – depression.” Hurst explains while fighting back tears in a video on his foundation’s website Hayden Hurst Family Foundation (haydenhurstfoundation.com). “When you’re in that headspace, when you’re in that dark spot, you do, you feel alone. You feel like nobody’s there, nobody cares. I guess, for me in those years, that’s why I turned to anything that I could get my hands on to numb that feeling of embarrassment where I wouldn’t have to explain myself to my family as to why my life was unraveling and one night it just caught up to me.”
That night was January 17th, 2016. Hayden had already hung up his glove after a minor league baseball career left him feeling like something was still missing. He decided to trade one set of cleats for another hoping he’d find that missing something on the football field. But, although he would enjoy early success in a University of South Carolina uniform, it wasn’t until that mid- January night that he would come to understand just how powerful the invisible foe he was fighting actually was and Hayden attempted to take his own life.
“At that point, I wanted out. I had fought for so long and I wanted it to be over,” Hurst goes on to say in the video. “It was the best and worst thing that ever happened in my life. For whatever reason God gave me a second shot at this thing and I made a promise I’m going to make the most out of this opportunity.”
From that moment forward, with his family and coaches by his side, Hurst put all he had into the game he loved. He began therapy, pushed himself in the weight room, excelled on the field, and in 2018, he would get the call that his hard work and perseverance had paid off. He was bound for the Baltimore Ravens as a first round draft pick. His dream now realized, Hayden set his sights on one more goal –to share his story and help others realize they are not alone.
“Having that support system in moments like that is crucial,” Hurst explains. “You don’t know which way is up. You’re looking for help anyway you can get it, and for those people to be there for me really helped save my life.”
Today, Hayden works to ensure he and his family are a part of that support system for others through his foundation. Since 2018, the same year he was drafted into the NFL, the organization has been supporting children, military families, and others in need; including those served by the Cohen Clinics at Centerstone.
“Hayden has always had an appreciation for the military,” Cathy Hurst, Hayden’s mother and the foundation’s Vice President explained. “He even considered joining the Marines. Now, he wants to focus on supporting those that have sacrificed so much to keep the country free. We are excited to see where a partnership with the Cohen Clinics may take us.”
As the mission continues, Hayden’s message will remain constant and personal.
“Keep fighting. Keep going because as bad and as dark as it gets, I promise you there is someone out there who cares and loves you and wants to see you succeed in whatever you do.”
It doesn’t have to be facing down NFL linemen, but it could be.
The foundation’s work has earned Hurst the Carolina Panthers’ nomination for the 13th annual Salute to Service Award which honors a NFL member who demonstrates an “exemplary commitment” to honoring and supporting the military community.
More information on the Hayden Hurst Foundation can be found at Hayden Hurst Family Foundation (haydenhurstfoundation.com).
Fans looking to vote for Hayden for this year’s NFL Salute to Service Award can do so at NFL.com/SaluteFanVote