SportsLocal Sports


Tucson Sugar Skull Matt Burrell shares his battle with mental health

Posted at 5:16 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 20:21:55-04

Tucson Sugar Skull center Matt Burrell extends his arms after practice at Kino Sports Complex.

"I got scars, here, relatively vertical," says Burrell. "All my tattoos cover up scars from self-harm as well."

Matt Burrell's battle with mental health began long before he was a U.S. Army High School All-American in Northern Virginia. It started when he felt responsible for a loss in a middle school basketball game.

"As soon as I did something wrong, I felt like they hated me. And, I'm a people person, so if I'm not pleasing you, I'm not really worthy."

Burrell says he battled through anxiety and depression as he was recruited to Ohio State, one of the top football programs in the nation.

"I wore it, too. I had a whole lot of bravado to it. But, it was fake."

Burrell battled for playing time. However, his biggest battle was with himself, as he attempted suicide.

"I've dealt with self-harm. I've dealt with all different types of mental abuse to myself."

Burrell would transfer to Ohio State for more playing time. His mental health started to improve as he says he found religion, worked on his breathing, and had a son.

"I still get spells. I have a way to blank it."

Now playing for the Sugar Skulls, Burrell has found a home. He's moving to Tucson full-time and has already gotten involved in the community by coaching.

"Anxiety and depression is a choice I can choose to fight, or I can choose to let it beat me up. That's why I'm chipper. I didn't fight demons. I defeated demons."