Isaiah Renfro glad that he went public with his depression battle

FormerWashington Huskies wide receiver Isaiah Renfrotook a few weeks to arrive at the decision to share his depression with the world.

He wrote one message on his Instagram page, ran it by a few friends, then got even more nervous. He threw that version away and went over in his mind again whether he really wanted to bare his soul about his depression and stepping away from college football. He knew the stigma. He knew what people might say. He didn't want to be deemed a quitter for something that was beyond his control.

But Renfro also knew he might help someone -- and find himself -- along the way. So he recomposed the message -- "straight from the heart," he said Tuesday -- and hit send.

"I didn't want to. I was really nervous about it," Renfro said during an interview on SportsCenter on Tuesday. "I was talking to one of my close friends before I posted it -- seeing what he thought about it."

Renfro first noticed his depression when he arrived at Washington. He said he just didn't feel like himself.

"I didn't feel like I was confident. I'm usually joking around, dancing around -- I didn't feel myself doing that anymore," Renfro said.

Renfro said he kept quiet during his freshman season out of fear of not being able to play football -- and, worse yet, being called a quitter. But he said he wasn't enjoying it and that he didn't believe he was living up to his abilities. He slowly realized that it was due to his depression. In November, the week the Huskies played Arizona State, he realized he had to get help.

Renfro missed spring training camp for "personal reasons," his coach, Chris Petersen, said then. In actuality, he was receiving treatment for depression at a hospital in what he described as "... a special program for people like me, that taught me how to cope with my problems and what to do when I hit my lowest of lows."

The support after going public Sunday has been overwhelming, Renfro said Tuesday.

"There's been a great response, and I didn't think it would be like that at all," Renfro said. "I didn't think it would blow up like this. I didn't think I'd be on SportsCenter. But it's been good to see how many people have reached out to me and told me their story.

"It's a bit surreal -- people calling me a hero. But I don't view myself as that at all. I see it as just telling my story, to see if I could help one or two people. I didn't imagine that it would help all these people."

But Renfro knows that other athletes out there need help.

"There's this persona in football that you're never allowed to be hurt, you always have to be strong, you can't cry, you can't have feelings. But it's OK to be hurt," Renfro said. "I was always the strong one. But strong wasn't the right word. It was just me bottling my feelings in and not letting anything out."

Renfro is taking this opportunity to change his life. He's not returning to football. He's transferring to Santa Monica to finish his degree.

And his career path now? Fashion. With a healthy dose of advocacy for others who suffer from depression or just getting through the rigors of college athletics.

"I've been doing a lot with fashion. That's my real passion," Renfro said. "But since I realized I can help other people, I'd love to go to other schools and talk to people and let them know they can talk to people ... if it's me, counselors ... I've been through this. People can relate to me. I've played Division I college football. I know."

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Washington wide receiver Isaiah Renfro explains why he decided to quit football in order to deal with his depression issues.

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