Madison returns to Packers, offers chilling insight into mental health

Cole Madison practiced with the Packers on Tuesday and shared some insight on just how the last year has been for him.

-- When it comes to being in the proper state of mind, football takes a back seat. That's why Cole Madison was away from the game a year ago.

One of the Green Bay Packers' three fifth-round picks in 2018, Madison stepped away from pursuing his professional career while he dealt with his own personal demons.

That included making sure that he even wanted to have a career. Or a life.

"I love football," Madison told Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com on Tuesday. "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."

The concept of mental health is often an overlooked one, especially in athletes or even males in general. One of the hardest challenges is not only recognizing the problem, but having the courage to reach out and seek help for yourself.

That's what Madison did during his time away from football. While the Packers embarked on a 6-9-1 campaign and positioned themselves to land two immediate, long-term contributors in this year's draft, Madison was conquering his own battles.

"That decision to really go out and seek help, 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.

"This last year was just really for me day by day, taking everything day by day. 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."

According to Wood, Madison's mental health dilemma plagued him well before the unfortunate passing of former Washington State teammate Tyler Hilinski last January.

Per general manager Brian Gutekunst, Madison's return was a "pleasant surprise," and certainly one that the Packers will welcome. It not only gives them the luxury of having less urgency to target an interior offensive lineman, but Madison was initially expected to compete for a starting job when he was first drafted.

The Packers signed Billy Turner during the free agency period last month, but there was never any designation that he'd be the starter. Turner can play both guard and tackle, and could even kick out to right tackle to replace Bryan Bulaga once his contract expires in 2020.

But for now, 2019 will essentially be Madison's rookie season. One that he has every opportunity to make the most of considering he's entering at a time when everything is new to everyone under new head coach Matt LaFleur.

Gutekunst believes that Madison is a better fit for LaFleur's zone-blocking scheme rather than what the Packers had implemented under Mike McCarthy. 

"It just shows that the Packers are the greatest organization in football right now. They really had my back through the process of this past year. They told me to take my time, get my head right and that's what I did. I'm really grateful for them and grateful to be back."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (45)

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

April 23, 2019 at 07:26 pm

Wish him the best.

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PatrickGB's picture

April 24, 2019 at 11:41 am

I do too. I wish him the best no matter what. And the correct phrase is “Ducks in a row” Not “Chickens in a row” . He needs to work on his interviews;-)

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Hawg Hanner's picture

April 23, 2019 at 07:33 pm

A man can't carry his problems around-take it out on the guy lined up on the other side!

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PAPackerbacker's picture

April 23, 2019 at 07:35 pm

Welcome back Mr. Cole Madison. So glad you decided to return to football and the Green Bay Packers. Give it all you got. Looking forward to seeing you in your Packer uniform and playing football. Wishing you nothing but the best.

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Otto's picture

April 23, 2019 at 07:51 pm

Good decision young man.

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Old School's picture

April 23, 2019 at 07:54 pm

OK....here's the numbers.

The 5 starters. I'm assuming Madison won't be one of those.

The three gameday active backups will play on special teams …..I think Spriggs and Patrick will be two of these guys, as well as a tackle we draft.

Our 9th guy would typically be a gameday inactive, on the 53 man squad. And we could keep one or two on the practice squad, which he would be eligible for.

IMO, that's probably the best spot he could be as he works his way into football again. Normally I think you might have to worry about another team poaching him, but I think we could work something out with him to keep him around this year.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:00 pm

I wouldn't underestimate this guy. Turner is taking one guard spot and he may take the other. Spriggs will be on thin ice from day one. Patrick is behind McCray right now and Gutekunst will bring in an OT and another guy for the guard competion. Going from inside zone blocking to outside pulls.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:46 pm

There's still Lane Taylor at LG.

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Johnblood27's picture

April 24, 2019 at 02:08 am

Lane?

as in a lane straight to our quarterback?

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dobber's picture

April 24, 2019 at 07:40 am

He regressed last season (although he had some nagging injuries, as I understand). I think it's easy for him to look good when he's got 4 quality starters playing around him...but as the quality of player on the right side of the line--either through injury or FA losses--has declined, it has impacted the whole line. His heavy feet make him a poor fit for the kind of offense LaF talks about wanting to run, he's got two years left on his extension, and there's some cap room to be gained if he doesn't make the 53. I think that when (and not if) the Packers draft OL help, he'll need to have a very good camp.

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albert999's picture

April 23, 2019 at 08:05 pm

Good kid
wish him the best and glad he’s back

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zeroluv's picture

April 23, 2019 at 08:13 pm

Cole Madison will start at some point this year. He is a beast in the Zone blocking scheme. I thought he was a steal last year. I like that he took a year off to regroup. This will help him not be another Josh Gordon who can’t seem to get his act together.

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ScaryGary's picture

April 24, 2019 at 12:50 am

thanks notstradumbass, wtf would u not want a talent like josh gordon?

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zeroluv's picture

April 24, 2019 at 07:03 am

What good does talent do sitting at home during the playoffs and super bowl like Gordon did last year. You aren’t the brightest bulb in the box or the sharpest tool in the shed are you.

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ScaryGary's picture

April 24, 2019 at 10:07 pm

"id rather be rich than stupid" - jack handy

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ScaryGary's picture

April 24, 2019 at 10:16 pm

as i recall cole madison was sitting on the bench while josh gordon beat us or was i dreaming?

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ScaryGary's picture

April 24, 2019 at 10:19 pm

bench=home

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Jonathan Spader's picture

April 24, 2019 at 05:57 pm

The best ability is availability. Something Gordon's lifestyle choices have prevented him from providing unfortunately.

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ScaryGary's picture

April 24, 2019 at 10:06 pm

do u think the difference between tyrell owens and josh gordon was choices or oppurtunitties? is the difference between jerry rice and owens team relateded? u can call me a dumbass for that stretch but im just sayin

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Jonathan Spader's picture

April 23, 2019 at 08:32 pm

Here's hoping a year away from football hasn't effected Madison's game too much and he's kept himself in football shape. Glad he was able to recover mentally and wish him the best but not expecting much from him in 2019.

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Handsback's picture

April 24, 2019 at 08:26 am

If you want to see a person's commitment, look at what they have done to sharpen their craft. Jonathan is right to look at his football shape. It shows a recovery and a renewed lust for playing football. He will be rusty, but also refreshed and eager to play. That LG position has his name all over it and wouldn't be shocked to see him start or start after a few games into the season. Lane Taylor has been a very good player for the Packers. I expect Cole to be a great player for the Pack!

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CoachJV's picture

April 23, 2019 at 08:44 pm

I'm pulling for this kid... hopefully he'll still have "hunger".

Welcome back Cole!

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SpurgeonsCigar's picture

April 23, 2019 at 08:54 pm

Courage comes in alot of different forms. Cole Madison is one of them.

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sonomaca's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:05 pm

I’m still not clear on what was wrong, how he got past it, and why it won’t recur.

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albert999's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:12 pm

Professional help a lot of love from friends and family
He’s hungry to play ball again and in great shape according to his interview and Guteys comments and LaFleur likes him. I’m glad we got him and he will be an asset this year

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albert999's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:14 pm

His college roommate and best friend committed suicide and i believe it was with a gun owned by Cole...very sad situation

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sonomaca's picture

April 25, 2019 at 07:58 am

Apparently, he had issues before suicide.

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baldski's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:11 pm

When was that picture taken? McCarthy would be happy, just look at Cole's pad level - low!

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Grimm's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:20 pm

This kid is so good, they already named the state capital after him!

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Johnblood27's picture

April 24, 2019 at 02:10 am

The capitol is not in Cole.

Stoopid!

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Spock's picture

April 24, 2019 at 09:11 am

Uh, jb27, the capitol of Wisconsin is MADISON. His comment is not so "Stoopid" is it?

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Springer's picture

April 26, 2019 at 05:00 pm

Sarcasm is tuff

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IceBowl's picture

April 23, 2019 at 09:42 pm

That was then, this is now.

The important thing is that he wants to play football after his "issues."

He certainly did not have to do this.

And relapses are always possible. But he is bringing "want to" to the Pack. If he has something to prove, some demons to bury, that will be a good thing for the team.

So, come on Cole Madison, enjoy your sport, have some fun and make the Bears your demon.

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dobber's picture

April 24, 2019 at 07:47 am

I hope the best for him, but he's still essentially a rookie and they signed a player (Turner) for the spot they had Madison targeted to play. Maybe it's a one-year thing and after Bulaga's deal expires (or he gets hurt) it's a seamless transition for Turner or Madison to drop into those spots.

Here's hoping he's mentally strong enough to make it work, but my fear--after all the talk of his concerns over personal health and CTE and the like--is that he'll bang heads at some point (which will happen a lot), be held out with a concussion (or concussion-like symptoms) and just fall apart.

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Tundraboy's picture

April 23, 2019 at 10:13 pm

Surest sign of strength is when you admit to yourself you need someone else to help you. Made my day to hear his own words on his experience.

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Zebra 3's picture

April 23, 2019 at 10:39 pm

I wish Cole the best.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 23, 2019 at 10:43 pm

Tundra,
Great post!

I too wish you the best Cole!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 24, 2019 at 03:09 am

"Madison's mental health dilemma plagued him well before the unfortunate passing of former Washington State teammate Tyler Hilinski last January."

I imagine that there are limits to what is possible when doing due diligence. Perhaps the Wash. St. coaches didn't know, or felt they couldn't disclose that info.

I can't get the video of his interview to play. IDK if he ever states that he sought professional help.

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sonomaca's picture

April 25, 2019 at 08:00 am

Might be a HIPAA violation. Even so, that’s intelligence that could have been gleaned from other sources.

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Lphill's picture

April 24, 2019 at 05:46 am

Yes practice squad or injured reserve , the Patriots stash rookies on injured reserve until they are needed the next season after the purge. It works for them totally legal.

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A Pickled Packer's picture

April 24, 2019 at 06:18 am

Glad to hear Cole Madison conquered his demons and will now focus on conquering defensive tackles. Way to go Cole we need you.

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Since'61's picture

April 24, 2019 at 08:36 am

Glad he's back. I wish him the best. Thanks, Since '61

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Montana's picture

April 24, 2019 at 08:39 am

Good luck Cole Madison....

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TXCHEESE's picture

April 24, 2019 at 08:48 am

In his remarks, he indicated he was dealing with stuff prior to the suicide of his friend. Maybe it was depression. My youngest dealt with it her junior and senior year in high school. We were blessed to find a wonderful counselor who worked with her for a couple of years. She is now through all that, and such a confident young go getter. God Bless Cole for seeking help.

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Springer's picture

April 26, 2019 at 04:57 pm

I've been debating which Packers jersey I was going to get for the last couple years. I'll be wearing 61 this fall. I didn't know, but I had a hunch all last year something like this was going on as I have dealt personally with my own mental health struggles and it felt similar. I hope football can bring Cole happiness and power in his life. He has already proven inspirational to many more than he may realize.

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