Packers rookie Cole Madison explains absence last season: 'My life was on the line'

Packers rookie Cole Madison explains absence last season: 'My life was on the line'

Cole Madison is back.

The Packers offensive lineman revealed Tuesday why he took his rookie season off, saying his life depended on it.

After Madison was drafted by Green Bay in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, he said he felt despondent and wasn’t focused on football. Instead, he said he made the tough decision to seek treatment over his mental health.

“I love football,” Madison told the Green Bay Press Gazette, “but at that point it was my health, and my life was on the line. I had to go help myself before my football career. If I didn’t get my chickens in order back then, I don’t think I’d be here right now.”

Madison, 24, didn’t dive too much into the mental health issues he endured, but indicated he was in such a dark place that he knew walking away from such a big opportunity to play for the Packers was necessary.

He said it was an extremely difficult decision, especially given the stigma surrounding young men and seeking treatment for anything related to mental health.

“That decision to really go out and seek help,” Madison said, “especially for men our age, going out and starting that process is real tough. Real tough. If I had to make it again, I’d do it again. Because it was the greatest decision I think I ever made.”

Madison peaked the interest of NFL teams during his time at Washington State, where he said he knew he was struggling internally. While some questioned whether former teammate and Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski’s suicide in January 2018 contributed to Madison’s issues, he said it oddly reinforced the fact that he wasn’t alone and that he needed help.

He said he didn’t notice himself feeling better until late in 2018, when he started feeling interested again in playing football.

“This last year was just really for me day by day, taking everything day by day,” Madison said. “It wasn’t really looking into the future. Then that day came where I was like, ‘Hey, you know, I’m coming back. I want to play some ball.’ So that brought us here.”

Madison reported to offseason training, something general manager Brian Gutekunst called a “really, really pleasant surprise.” Even though the Packers weren’t sure if Madison would return to the team, they still kept him on the squad.

“However they want me to play,” Madison said, “I’ll play for them. They had my back, I’ll have their back now.”

Madison said now he feels like he’s in a great place mentally and ready to get to work for Green Bay.

“This last year I really got my mind in a good spot,” Madison said. “Best it’s been in a long time, and more excited to leave and see how I could handle this and be on my own for awhile. Right now, I’m doing great, feel great, and I’m just happy to be back playing some ball right now.

“I’m ready to roll. Took a year off, twiddling my thumbs, now I’m back and letting it loose.”