By his own account, Sidney Jones IV didn’t have to face a ton of adversity for most of his life leading up to his final year at the University of Washington, and that was particularly true when it came to football.
After being a standout player on a successful West Covina High School team, Jones went on to become a three-year starter and eventually one of the nation’s top cornerbacks with the Huskies, looking like a potential first-round pick when he decided to forgo his senior season for the 2017 draft.
But then Jones’ football career took a dramatic turn when he tore his Achilles during Washington’s pro day, an injury that caused him to fall in the second round of the draft. Jones missed almost his entire rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles, then during his next two seasons he struggled to earn consistent playing time, in part due to more injuries. Jones was eventually cut by the team that drafted him, then later traded away from his second team, Jacksonville, for a sixth-round pick.
Those on-field struggles took Jones to a dark place, leading him to battle depression and anxiety. It took some time, but Jones eventually found help in the form of a therapist, a decision that helped improve both his quality of life and his play on the field. That journey is why, when Seahawks players wore custom cleats for last season’s My Cause, My Cleats game, Jones proudly sported a pair of pink shoes with the name and logo of Mental Health America, a non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all.
And it’s also why Jones is encouraged by the launch of the Seahawks’ new mental health program, Mental Health Matters.
“It’s really important to me because it’s something I’ve been through personally,” said Jones, who joined the Seahawks via trade with Jacksonville prior to the start of last season. “Growing up, I never really faced too much adversity, never had too many hardships. It was kind of an easy road—good at football, everything was going up and up. Then I sustained the Achilles injury before the draft, and that was a big shock for me. First surgery, first major injury, and that took me through some dark times. I tried to stay positive about it, but I had a moment where I just didn’t feel like myself, and that was weighing on me. I didn’t notice I needed help until maybe a couple of years down the road, and I never really got a chance to talk about it. But coming out of that, coming out of that dark space, I got some help, talked to a therapist and figured out a way.”
Mental Health Matters is a program that will focus on destigmatizing, normalizing and encouraging conversations around mental health. The Seahawks will partner with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to provide resources and steps to get help, while also providing warning signs of mental illness and what to do when those signs are present, including steps to get proper help.
“If you’re going through tough times and adversity hits, you need somebody to talk to, you need a support system,” Jones said. “Some people have different support systems—family, friends, therapists—and mine just happened to be a therapist who helped me out, and my wife, she was there along this process with me. It’s been a good journey just learning about mental health , learning the importance of it, because those dark days that you face sometimes, and there’s always a brighter side through talking about it and having a support system, being vocal about it and not being in your own box, I feel like helped the process of getting back to who I was.”
Getting back who he was helped Jones enjoy the best season of his career with the Seahawks in 2021, establishing career highs in games played (16), starts (11), passes defended (10) and tackles (66). He also believes that being healthier mentally helped him stay healthier from a physical standpoint.
“My mental health was coming out through injuries,” he said. “I feel like the anxiety and depression kind of manifested through my body, and you need your body to perform. Everything was correlated, my mental wasn’t right, and it was showing up in my profession. Just making sure the mental is right , because the mental controls everything. So that’s very important to bring awareness to just so everyone gets a chance to be the best version of themselves.”