Badgers football: Former Monona Grove athlete Jaden Gault takes leave from team while battling depression

2014-07-07T11:40:00Z Badgers football: Former Monona Grove athlete Jaden Gault takes leave from team while battling depressionJASON GALLOWAY jgalloway@madison.com, 608-252-6174 madison.com

For days and even weeks at a time, Jaden Gault could barely get out of bed. The day-to-day life ahead of him just didn’t seem worth it.

That’s the kind of grip depression and anxiety can exert on a person — regardless of age, or talent, or whether the outside world might assume he has everything going for him.

Gault is a 6-foot-7, 300-pound football star with a bright future at the University of Wisconsin. He led Monona Grove to a state title last fall, earned his high school diploma a semester early, competed in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January and then enrolled at UW as the Badgers’ most highly ranked recruit from the Class of 2014.

But during his first six weeks as a college student, a chain of difficult events, along with all of the changes and new pressures in his life, led Gault to become severely depressed — to the point that he knew he needed help.

So Gault took a leave of absence from the UW football program, missing spring practice, and is taking steps to fight the condition. He doesn’t plan to return to football until at least January.

“I was almost like a zombie,” Gault said in a telephone interview Friday. “I was getting kind of hopeless. I didn’t feel like doing anything or being there at all. I just wanted to check out.

“I wanted to just be done with life. Being in that kind of stage, you really have no other options in your head at that time.”

Gault was hospitalized as a precaution after having suicidal thoughts in early February, and again during the first week of March. At that point, he realized he needed to leave the UW football team temporarily and miss spring practice.

Gault is enrolled in classes for the fall semester but plans to sit out the football season as a redshirt. He is targeting a return to the team in January, if his condition improves.

UW declined to issue a statement on Gault’s situation, but a sports information official did say Gault has the full support of the program and added that his roster status has not changed.

“(The coaching staff) can’t wait to get Jaden back when he wants to be there,” Matt Gault, Jaden’s father, said. “That’s what they said. It’s all on Jaden’s time frame.

“They don’t want him until he wants to be there. They don’t want him to come back and have the same results. They want him to want to be there, and they’ll welcome him back at any time.”

Along with his leave from the team, Gault also dropped two of his four spring classes, began working with a psychiatrist and a psychologist on a weekly basis and participated in an intensive, three-week outpatient care program that included group therapy and practice using coping strategies.

“I’m making a lot of progress, I think. I’m doing better now,” Gault said. “The big thing right now is just getting back into a schedule. Right now I’m not in classes, and come fall it’s going to be a full schedule.

“I’ve been doing some things to personally try to get my mind right again, and I’m definitely doing a lot better than I was when I took a leave from the team.”

Gault, whose family has a history of anxiety, according to his father, was a four-star recruit and ranked 47th nationally by 247sports.com.

His grandfather, Bill White, died after a long battle with cancer six days after Gault and Monona Grove won the state football title. His 30-year-old uncle, Joe Gavin, died nine days later after suffering from a blood clot, delaying Gault’s official visit to UW in December.

Gault played in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 before moving into an apartment and beginning football workouts at UW days later. He then had surgery on his knee Jan. 29.

“It kind of all happened at the same time,” Matt Gault said. “Everything happened so fast. He never had time to recover from everything and just absorb and let everything settle.”

It didn’t take long for the Gaults to realize Jaden’s situation wasn’t all that rare for high-profile athletes transitioning to college life.

Former UW basketball player Greg Stiemsma, who has gone on to have a career in the NBA, missed the final 15 games of his sophomore season in 2006 after his depression led to poor academic performance.

“I know depression isn’t seen as it really is,” Jaden Gault said. “A lot of people go through it, and it’s hard to come forth with it. It was tough for me, but I’m glad that I did and got the help I needed.”

The Gaults met with UW coaches, academic advisers and others in the athletic department, and they agreed Jaden needed to get healthy first and then work on being a student before he rejoined the team.

Gault will take a full class load in the fall and hopes to rejoin the team for spring practice next year.

“It was rough going there for a couple months,” Matt Gault said. “He’s really worked hard. He’s getting to a point where he’s making better decisions, and he’s doing what he needs to do to get better. This fall’s going to be another challenge for him. “At this point, we’re kind of targeting January to (return to the team), and if that happens, great. If not, we’ll reassess the options then.”

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(28) Comments

  1. june judge
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    june judge - July 10, 2014 12:15 pm
    Jaden...you are not alone. Thank you for telling your story. It will open the doors to so many others.. Have you used the WRAP..which is the Wellness Resource Action Plan ..a written diary-type of thing developed by Mary Ellen Copeland, in her experience with depression. So many folks who can and will be there for you. Lots of love.
    Grandma June
  2. seered
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    seered - July 07, 2014 9:40 pm
    It certainly sounds like his dad has a good handle on things, and Jaden himself is getting the help he needs, and is beginning to recover. Best wishes to Jaden and his family during this time........and it is all about time and what is right for Jaden. His mental health is most important here, the UW and football is not. Take your time young man, you are doing the right thing, and it will get better in time. You are not alone!
    Report Abuse
    ABDGRFN - July 07, 2014 8:58 pm
    I've said here many times how much I love football. I've also said many times that there is so much to life other than this game.
    Take all the time you need Jaden football will wait and we fans will wait and pray for your recovery.
  4. adamman
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    adamman - July 07, 2014 7:33 pm
    It seems like Jaden has a family that has gotten on top of this thing fast. That's so important. I wish other kids who are depressed had the same resources. Jaden is very fortunate and I'm confident he will win the depression battle.

    One of the good things that come out of a story like this, is that Jaden now has the motivation to become a role model for other depressed youth. I hope that in the future he overcomes his challenge and then reaches out to others. I'm sure he will, seems like a good kid.
  5. gregjm
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    gregjm - July 07, 2014 7:30 pm
    In awe of your courage to step forward and give a voice to depression and its debilitating impact.
  6. dayla025
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    dayla025 - July 07, 2014 7:14 pm
    You are unbelievably courageous to share your battle with depression and anxiety with not only the general public, but the many young adults who are in the same daily pain. Best of luck in your recovery. You are not only surrounded by the many fans of UW Football, but the most important fans of all, your family!
  7. ghostdog1108
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    ghostdog1108 - July 07, 2014 7:09 pm
    I admire you for your courage in sharing your story Jaden. The 'stigma' of depression needs to be erased forever.
    Some of the most accomplished individuals in human history suffered from this disease.
    It is not a weakness, it's a disease and is curable. All the best to you.
  8. kamme
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    kamme - July 07, 2014 7:00 pm
    Jaden, you are incredibly brave. My prayers and hope for a speedy treatment, and that you find the coping skills and peace that you need. Thanks for speaking out about what you are going through. You are a role model for all!
  9. Chroha
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    Chroha - July 07, 2014 6:41 pm
    As someone who has battled depression for over twenty years I can only say kudos and best wishes to Jaden
    I am wondering though, how did this story come to be written? Did Jaden and his family reach out and choose to have this battle laid bare to the public, or are they being generous and opening up after his situation had been discovered by the press?
  10. lovstoplay64
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    lovstoplay64 - July 07, 2014 6:25 pm
    Kudos to Jaden for his amazing courage!! Kudos to the rest of the commenters who have left wonderful, supportive messages for Jaden. In a world where people seem so quick to judge, it's refreshing to see so much kindness.

    Jaden is a great kid with great parents who have always been his biggest cheerleaders on or off the football field. Wishing Jaden and his family my best wishes!
  11. Bigtenwi
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    Bigtenwi - July 07, 2014 5:39 pm
    Just ignore juicyjayyyy. Obviously is insensitive and never knew someone or dealt w depression. I know depression and it consumed me but love how he is handling it! You are a positive role model for all. Praying for you and wish you the best!
  12. UWMadisongal
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    UWMadisongal - July 07, 2014 5:37 pm
    Thank you for posting this comment- some people just don't get it.
  13. graefental
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    graefental - July 07, 2014 4:34 pm
    Um... pretty insensitive comment there. I'm guessing that you have never known what it's like to give 120% in life, like this kid always has. Not the time or place for smart remarks, fella.
  14. toby
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    toby - July 07, 2014 4:21 pm
    Depression is so misunderstood . When I read this, my heart goes out to the kid. This article can help so many others and their families.
  15. Chuckp
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    Chuckp - July 07, 2014 3:49 pm
    You are really helping a lot of people by coming forward with this. Hang in there, it will get better.
  16. jayhoo67
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    jayhoo67 - July 07, 2014 3:06 pm
    Years ago I was depressed. Not fun by any definition. Felt like I was living life in molasses. Its very heartening to see this fine young man taking positive steps to help himself. Other young people can benefit from his example. Looking forward to seeing Jaden in Camp Randell.
  17. Honorary Kentucky Colonel
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    Honorary Kentucky Colonel - July 07, 2014 2:35 pm
    A great deal of maturity for a young person; not buckling to what must have been a lot of pressure (not all self-imposed) to do otherwise.

    While his health, both mental and physical is first and foremost, this will end up making him both a better person and, if it goes that way, a better football player.

    He's probably not had a lot of time to himself that didn't involve advancing his football prospects.

    A real good time to take a step back, he probably would have just seen spot duty this year and may have even ended up red-shirting.

    Thinking for yourself, making your own decisions, and living with the consequences are life lessons that can never come too early.

    Good luck, young man.

  18. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - July 07, 2014 2:02 pm
    Depression is "no fun". Quite literally. Nothing whatever in life brings you any joy or peace or satisfaction.

    No matter how good a football player Jaden is, the example he's setting here — dealing openly and honestly with his condition, admitting that he's not Superman, seeking competent advice and assistance — may be the greatest contribution he ever makes to Badger football.
  19. IAD
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    IAD - July 07, 2014 1:57 pm
    It may or may not be in football but your decision to me indicates you will do very well in life young man.
  20. modotti
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    modotti - July 07, 2014 1:29 pm
    much respect to this young man, this is a really difficult thing to deal with and it is hard and courageous to do so in public ... Jaden, taking care of yourself is so important and you are setting an amazing example for many others.

    all best to you
  21. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - July 07, 2014 11:55 am
    Congrats to the young man for reaching out for help. Aside from the many triggering events, he should be mindful of any concussions he has had. Depression is a symptom of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a football plague.
  22. Norwood44
    Report Abuse
    Norwood44 - July 07, 2014 11:55 am
    Congrats to the young man for reaching out for help. Aside from the many triggering events, he should be mindful of any concussions he has had. Depression is a symptom of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a football plague.
  23. toadmanjack
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    toadmanjack - July 07, 2014 11:49 am

    Thank you for doing this article. My son is a sophomore in college and he too plays football. One day he called me stressed because he had been feeling the same way as you for a while. He felt alone as a football player and was afraid to tell me, his friends or coach. He thought he should just be tough. I had an idea there was something going on with my son and I know we still have a journey in front of us, but a giant weight was removed when he found that other tough men, football players, had the same struggles. At the time he said "I don't feel alone any more." So thank you for sharing your journey. I hope you know that you helped people today. Wishing you all the best young man!
  24. nan3
    Report Abuse
    nan3 - July 07, 2014 11:31 am
    Jaden-depression strikes so many who do not seek treatment due to stigma. By being so honest, you just might inspire other young people to get help...true leadership...best wishes in your struggle.
  25. graefental
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    graefental - July 07, 2014 9:39 am
    Great player, great leader, nice kid. Wishing him only the best, as he's given so much to the fans who watched him take MG to a state championship during his senior year.
  26. gorman
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    gorman - July 07, 2014 9:34 am
    Do what is best for you, Jaden. The Badgers can wait.
  27. rockemred
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    rockemred - July 07, 2014 8:13 am
    Get well Jaden, college years should be some of the best times in your life, so rest, slow things down, enjoy the sights, sounds and the whole environment. Spend some extra time with family and friends, best wishes to you young man.
  28. BananaSplitz
    Report Abuse
    BananaSplitz - July 07, 2014 6:45 am
    Wishing you well, Jaden.

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