Former NFL quarterback Erik Kramer came to Monarch Hall to discuss depression and surviving suicide.
By Harrison McQuinn, Sports Editor
Erik Kramer was a football success story from the San Fernando Valley grinding his way into the NFL, but faced an opponent not even the best offensive linemen could stop, depression.
Students shuffled into Monarch Hall Wednesday where Athletic Director Jim Fenwick briefly introduced Kramer who then put his hands on a piece of metal, this time to deliver a powerful message.
“We killed them,” said Kramer on facing the Dallas Cowboys in playoffs back when he played quarterback for the Lions.
The 53 year old started calling signals back at Pierce College long before the hitting the Silverdome. Fenwick was coaching Kramer at the time and had great things to share about his grit saying, “Nobody worked harder than him.”
Kramer was even called Brass by former teammate Ken Dallafior who claimed the quarterback had “brass balls.”
He was a 200 pound football player who stood over 6 feet tall, battled into the NFL as an undrafted free agent, and was thought to be made of brass, so how did he find himself at that Good Nite Inn two years ago with a SIG Sauer 9 millimeter against his chin?
“Failure is part of the process. You get knocked down five times, get up six,” Kramer explained of losing several battles over starting quarterback.
The Encino native admitted he thought happiness was as simple as transferring to a university then into the NFL, but even while he was breaking records with the Chicago Bears, he felt disconnected.
As he put away the helmet and shoulderpads, Kramer continued onto the gridiron of life where he played the ultimate quarterback sneak, hiding away the looming sense of isolation. He began a run for the end zone where his family and friends waited eagerly, but was being chased by faceless lineman geared with anxiety and depression.
Fifty yards. Kramer retires from the NFL but finds a new niche in sportscasting as the Lions’ color commentator.
Forty yards. Marshawn Kramer, now ex-wife, files for divorce in part due to conflicts driven by Erik’s depression.
Thirty yards. Kramer’s older son Griffen, only 18 years old and playing quarterback for Thousand Oaks High School, died from a heroin overdose.
Twenty yards. Kramer’s mother passes away from cancer and his dad becomes sick as well.
He’s down in the red zone. Finally tackled by all of life’s adversity, Kramer felt complete seclusion from all his friends and remaining son Dillon with whom he had a relationship he referred to as, “sketchy at best.”
After a final meal down the street, the troubled father sat alone in a Calabasas hotel bed accompanied only by a cold piece of steel with the power to conclude months of deliberating, rewriting of a will, and several goodbye notes.
“I can’t do this forever,” echoed in his head.
Like a grounded pass on the sideline with a receiver inches away, the bullet missed most of Kramer’s brain but landed him at Providence Holy Cross Hospital in Granada Hills.
It took Kramer two weeks to wake up before being transferred to UCLA Medical Center. He was taken to a Brain Rehabilitation Center for six months to endure speech therapy, physical therapy, and brain exercises.
“I was the only one there because of a gunshot to the head,” said Kramer who was used to feeling separated.
The experience, though traumatic, exposed Kramer’s condition which allowed his friends and family to properly support him. He reconnected with football friends and Fenwick who he now plays golf with on Wednesdays.
These connections along with professional help and medication have brought new light to Kramer’s life.
The former NFL star plans to go into coaching to continue creating connections with players and encourages anyone struggling with depression to also build relationships and, if needed, seek professional help.
Kramer advised to the Wednesday crowd and all those who hear his story, “It’s never a good time to quit.”