Quinn Pitcock - one of our area’s greatest football players - spoke candidly on national TV Wednesday afternoon to Katie Couric about the addiction that derailed his NFL career.
An All-State defensive tackle at Piqua High, consensus first team All-American at Ohio State and a once-promising, 328-pound lineman for the Indianapolis Colts, Pitcock gave up the game he had long loved for another game - one to which he was fully addicted.
The 29-year-old Pitcock was - and still is - a video game addict who ended up losing friends, his livelihood and most of all his perspective and sense of self as he sank deeper and deeper into the world of virtual reality..
“I was living the dream. I was coming off my senior year for the Buckeyes being drafted in the third round by the Indianapolis Colts. So I was on the right path for greatness and then things turned for the worst,” he told Kouric on her show “Katie.”
Pitcock - as those of us who have known him here a long time can well attest - told Kouric: “I’m an introvert. I do better by myself. I’m happier that way.”
Video games became an easy escape for him and he said the gaming culture is prevalent in the NFL:
“We have off season workouts and some of us do charities during the day and the rest of the day is off to play (video) football games, Halo (and) Call To Duty like myself. In the locker room we had a video game system and we played them there. That’s how my video gaming started. I end up buying a game station for home. Then the online players are what got me because no matter what time of day… there is still someone playing.”
He said he became one of the top ranked players in the world in three different games: “Top three rakings in millions and millions of people, so in my mind I was doing well. So why not keep on playing?”
With a pause, he quietly added: “And if I really put myself to it, I could have been No. 1, but I didn’t want that.
“(But) all of a sudden, I was away from everybody. I became secluded from friends, family. I stopped going to my workouts, stopped doing what I needed to do for my professional career. I called my agent and said, ‘Look, I’m done with football. I can’t do it right now. It’s not for me anymore.’”
After just one season Pitcock left the Colts. He claimed depression, which - though he was secretive about it at first - was being fueled by his growing gaming addiction.
“I have such respect for the game and I wasn’t fully 100 percent committed so I felt they were better off with me,” he told Kouric.
Pitcock said the Colts offered to help him, but initially he slipped deeper into his addiction:
“I was spiraling down where video games were taking over my life. Once I did quit the NFL my addiction got even worse. That’s when I really got into the 18-plus hours a day. Eating one meal a day. Secluded from everybody - my friends, family, everybody. I realized then it was a physical need. It was no longer just a mental, ‘Oh, I want to play.’ It was, ‘I don’t want to play anymore,’ but physically, I had to play. I could not stop.”
It took Pitcock a while to accept the Colts’ offer, but when he did it helped him save his life.
“They (the Colts) didn’t shun me out at all, they were there to help me,” he said. “But it’s like any addict - you can’t get recovery until you’re ready to accept you’re an addict and that you want recovery. And that was the part I wasn’t ready for. It took me at least six months to a year until I started going to the psychologist/psychiatrist provided by the Colts.”
After a couple of years, Pitcock tried to return to the NFL - first with Seattle in 2010 and then Detroit in 2011. He got as far as the final cut of preseason camp or the practice squad, but didn’t play in another regular season NFL game. Now he is playing Arena League Football for the Orlando Predators and he still hopes he can work his way back to the NFL.
“I’m always going to be a recovering game addict,” he said. “I started off going from one addiction to another - like on-line poker and then on-line auctions…At first I was just replacing addictions and to this day I still have troubles with just some small game applications. If I get myself in a room with too much time I could catch myself into a game for hours without knowing.”
He said talking to someone about his addictions helped him deal with them and he suggests other people who find their lives spiraling downward into a gamer’s world of virtual reality should find someone to open up to, as well:
“Talk to a third party and just speak your mind. For me, I realized once I got things off my chest, it was a lot easier to get away from the games, because the games are a way to separate yourself from reality (and go into) virtual reality you can control. Once you face the truth of reality, I think you can move forward.”
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