He Was a Good Husband and Father. Football Changed Him

Emily Kelly on being married to an ex-NFL player with brain damage
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2018 4:57 PM CST
Brain Damage Turned Ex-NFLer Into a 'Ghost in Our Home': Wife
This Aug. 9, 2014 file photo shows an NFL logo on a goal post.   (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

"These men chose football, but they didn't choose brain damage," Emily Kelly writes in the New York Times. CTE has been found in the brains of over 100 deceased NFL players, and Kelly believes her husband will one day join their ranks. Rob Kelly retired in 2002 at the age of 28 after five years of playing safety for the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. Kelly has memories of her husband as a "sensitive and tenderhearted person" who "could play dollhouse with my stepdaughter for hours" and "brought me coffee in bed each morning." That's not who he is anymore. "He went from being a devoted and loving father and husband to someone who felt like a ghost in our home," Kelly writes. Rob stopped eating, didn't leave the house, and refused to speak for an entire winter. He couldn't sleep, and his depression and mood swings worsened.

Kelly says she had Rob evaluated by a neurologist in 2010 and "was right to be concerned" because "things became increasingly frightening." Fortunately for Kelly, she found a support network in the form of a Facebook group for women connected to current and former NFL players. "Our stories are eerily similar, our husbands' symptoms almost identical," Kelly says. They describe shared symptoms, like nonstop washing of clothes, and the feeling of being married to "a man so drastically different from the one" they met. Kelly is frustrated by the response from fans who say players knew what they were getting into. The NFL didn't publicly acknowledge the long-term effects of concussions until 2009; it took until 2016 to acknowledge a link between CTE and football. "For Rob, and countless other players, those admissions came too late," Kelly writes. Read the full piece here. (More NFL stories.)

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