Lions great Eric Hipple shares powerful message on mental health


MIAMI, Fla. — Former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple understands the toll ignored mental issues can take on one’s well-being, which is why he’s sharing a powerful message at the country’s largest sports event.

After Hipple’s son committed suicide in 2000, he continues to raise awareness of mental health issues in order to remove the stigma associated with discussing them publicly, or even privately. 

“The biggest challenge is to keep going when things get really, really dark,” said Hipple to our team with Big Game Bound on Monday. “The only way you can do that is if there’s hope.”

“Pieces of hope are what really pull people through.”

Hipple continues to advocate on behalf of After the Impact, a charity that helps veterans and athletes with injuries you can’t detect on the surface.

On Monday’s show, which you can watch above, Hipple discusses his own suicide attempt and what he’s learned since his darkest of days. 

‘Committed to life’: USU alumnus, former NFL star shares mental health journey


When he was a student at Utah State University, it seemed like Eric Hipple had every reason to succeed. Coming to Logan from California on a football scholarship, he had supportive coaches and parents who would follow him to every game.

But there were some days when the 6-foot-4 four-year starter couldn’t even get out of bed, Hipple told the Class of 2019 during commencement exercises at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Thursday.

“I had no energy, I felt overwhelmed and I would only rally enough to show a smile when a teammate would stop by my dorm room and say ‘hi,’” he said.

The school “rallied and helped” Hipple get his grades back up so he could be eligible to play again — but it was not a closing chapter in dealing with depression.

Hipple, who now works for a mental health/addiction treatment facility in Florida and helped found a treatment program called After the Impact, shared his life story and gave tips to the graduating class about how to keep a sharp mind.

After graduating from USU with a degree in business administration, Hipple was drafted to the Detroit Lions. He saw the team to championships, was named Most Valuable Player — and got injured along the way.

“Self-medication became my tool, just like it had in certain times in college,” Hipple said. “So I never learned anything about depression. When I was knocked down, I would always get back up.”

But he didn’t get back up for long. After a few bad plays during one game, league officials let him go the next day, Hipple said.

The transition out of professional sports proved to be “very tough” — and almost deadly. The loss of identity of being a Detroit Lions star led Hipple, during a drive with his wife, to pen a note saying, “I love you. I’m sorry” before jumping out of the car going 75 miles per hour.

Hipple was offered mental health treatment by doctors but refused because of the stigma he thought such help created.

“I didn’t learn anything,” Hipple said. “I got back up and I carried on.”

Three years later, his high-school age son, Jeff, took his own life while Hipple was on a business trip.

“I got a call the next day from my wife. She had tears … and said Jeff was dead,” Hipple said. “We were all devastated.”

But even that kind of loss did not motivate the elder Hipple to get help for his own mental health problems. After years of what he called self-destructive behavior, Hipple got help at the University of Michigan.

“But more than that, I received knowledge,” Hipple said. “Mental illness and brain illnesses have names, and mine was depression.”

He said what he learned most of all from the treatment is that mental illness is treatable. Hipple believes people are “problem-solving wonders” and there are ways they can beat stress and anxiety and improve overall mental health. This includes having a sense of purpose, setting goals and having meaningful relationships.

“Mental health is a continuum; it’s not a diagnosis,” Hipple said. “It’s defined as a state of well-being and a sense of who you are.”

He closed his remarks by telling students, in part, “be committed to yourself … be committed to life.”

Hipple gave his speech at the Spectrum, just a few minutes’ walk from the Logan Cemetery, where his son Jeff is buried on a hillside overlooking the university football stadium.

After his speech, Hipple was awarded an honorary degree for devoting “his life to building awareness and breaking down the stigma” of mental illnesses, according to a citation read by Kent Alder, a member of the USU Board of Trustees.

Tarah Lynn Hipple-Thomas, Hipple’s daughter, told The Herald Journal she came from her home in Bremerton, Washington, to watch her father speak at commencement.

Hipple-Thomas, who has openly discussed her own mental health struggles and penned a book of poetry on the issue, called her father a mentor and said she is “in awe” of his ability to speak at USU.

“It’s showing that you can overcome and help so many, including yourself,” she said. “The work that he has done for years to make sure no one has to go through what our family went through, it’s incredible. It really honors my brother’s memory. I know my brother is looking down and smiling huge for him.”

Former Utah State, NFL quarterback shares message of hope, mental health with Aggie grads


LOGAN — Coming from his California high school football team and driving through the canyon into Cache Valley where he was to play for Utah State University more than 40 years ago was a magical moment for Eric Hipple.

The magic continued for four years as the university’s starting quarterback, surrounded by a close-knit team and supportive coaches and staff.

But darkness that had shadowed Hipple throughout his life moved in, essentially keeping him in bed for an entire semester. Only the visits from his teammates and coaches brought him light, and eventually the young athlete pulled himself up and completed summer classes in order to remain eligible to play football.

“But I never asked and it was never discussed what had caused me to miss class in the first place,” Hipple said Thursday, speaking to graduates at his alma mater.


That wasn’t the only time Hipple found himself buried beneath mental health obstacles, and he spent many of the years that followed battling inwardly, self-medicating and doing what football had taught him to do.

“I never learned anything about depression. But when I was knocked down, I would always get back up.”

Thursday Hipple shared encouragement with the class of 2019, as well as the lessons he said have been “most valuable” in his life, assuring the students “mental illnesses are treatable.”

“The sooner the recognition the better, and many are treatable through just talk therapy,” he said, explaining that the neural connections in the brain make humans “problem-solving wonders.”

He urged the graduates to identify the barriers to their problem-solving abilities, like stress and anxiety, and to strengthen themselves psychologically just as they would physically, striving to be “mentally fit.”

“Mental health is a continuum, it is not a diagnosis. It is defined as a state of well-being and a sense of who you are,” Hipple explained.

After graduating from Utah State he was drafted in 1980 by the Detroit Lions, was named the Lions’ MVP for the 1981 season, and played for 10 years that included two playoff bids and a divisional championship. His time with the team included being sidelined by injuries for two years, until Hipple returned as a starter but in his first game threw two touchdowns — for the opposing team — and was cut the next day.

Hipple fell back to his USU degree in business administration and started his own company, but “transitions can be very tough,” he said. From age 9 to 32 he had been a football player, and he struggled to be anything else.

He was still trying to define himself and manage his own mental state in 2000 when his 15-year-old son, Jeffrey, was fighting his own battle against depression.

“It was on a Saturday morning at 6 a.m. that I woke him to say goodbye because I was leaving on a business trip. And he had tears in his eyes, and I told him, ‘When I get back we’ll figure this stuff out,’ and I left,” Hipple recalled.

The next day, Jeffrey took his own life.

Hipple passed several self-destructive years after that, until he came to the University of Michigan Depression Center, where he received treatment and participated in therapy for the first time.

“That was a term that had never been in my vocabulary,” Hipple said, emphasizing the word “depression” in the center’s name. “Mental illness and brain illnesses have names, and mine was depression.”

The progress and self-discovery he found there led to 11 years working at the center and a book chronicling his football career, the tragedies in his life and his personal rebuilding.

Hipple left the graduates with a final message of encouragement, urging them to “be committed.”

“Be committed to others. Be committed to yourself. Be committed to something spiritual. Be committed to life.”

Utah State President Noelle Cockett praised the graduates and took a moment to remember the many individual and shared experiences that brought them to graduation day, asking for a show of hands from students who got married or had children while in school, worked one or more jobs, volunteered, found a mentor, and attended campus activities or sporting events.

This year the university is conferring 1,095 graduate and 6,009 undergraduate degrees, Cockett noted. Of those, 57 percent are female, she said to applause.

Along with Hipple, two other USU alumni received honorary doctorates.

  • Author and philanthropist Mehdi Heravi left his home in Iran with a dream of pursuing an education in the U.S., including studying political science at Utah State where he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from in 1963 and 1964. His ongoing support of the university includes several scholarships he established. After graduation, Heravi returned home to serve as vice president at the National University of Iran, according to a Utah State news release. Following the Islamic Revolution, Heravi turned to philanthropy and humanitarian work, including supporting an orphanage in northern Iran and working with several organizations related to cerebral palsy, a disease that affects his son.
  • Ronald W. Jibson worked for 36 years at Questar Corp. (now Dominion Energy), including as chairman, president and CEO, before he retired in 2016. Jibson studied civil engineering at Utah State and earned a master’s of business administration from Westminster College, according to the news release. His service in the community has included participation on several boards, including the college’s board of trustees, where he served as chair, and USU’s College of Engineering Advisory Board. He has supported endowed scholarships at the school.

Correction: In an earlier version, Eric Hipple’s surname was misstated on second reference as Higgins, and his son Jeff was misidentified as James.

Former Utah State football quarterback Eric Hipple has a story to tell, and it’s not about football


LOGAN — Eric Hipple is returning to campus this week to give a talk he wishes he’d heard 40 years ago.

Hipple needs no introduction at Utah State University. He is arguably the best quarterback ever to play for the Aggies. He started four straight years, from 1976 through 1979, led the team to a 15-6-1 record and conference championships his last two seasons, and followed that with a 10-year career in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. At the end of the millennium, when Utah State compiled its all-20th-century team, Eric Hipple was the starting QB.

So no one had to ask “Who?” when USU announced that Hipple will receive an honorary doctorate and give the commencement address to the Class of 2019 this Thursday.

But he isn’t going to talk about football.

He’s going to talk about mental illness.

* * *

There were two Eric Hipples at Utah State. One was the star quarterback, the jock of jocks, the biggest man on campus. The other was a kid far away from home battling depression.

No one called it that, of course. Not in the 1970s. When Eric stayed in bed instead of getting up and going to his classes, when he laid around his apartment not wanting to do much of anything, when he didn’t smile or want to be around people, it was passed off as a moody teenager being a moody teenager, or maybe a star athlete being a prima donna — if it was passed off at all.

There was fallout from Eric’s actions. He flunked some classes. But he got help and plenty of it. The administration and his coaches stepped in to make sure of that. He stayed for summer school and made up his credits to remain eligible to play football and get his degree.

“I received the support because I was the starting quarterback,” says Hipple. “It was very, very quiet, but I got a lot of attention — a lot of people looking out for me. What I was going through wasn’t really identified as anything other than being an athlete. Stuff like that just wasn’t talked about at all.”

A decade of stardom in the NFL didn’t end the bad patches. Nor did marriage and a family and material possessions. The darkness still lurked. After retiring from football, it got so bad that Hipple dove out of a car speeding along a Michigan highway in a vain attempt to end it all.

“I wrote a note to my wife that said, ‘Sorry,’ and jumped out of a car going 75 mph,” says Hipple.

After that didn’t work and he recovered from his physical injuries, the bad went to absolute worse when three years later Eric’s 15-year-old, Jeff, himself a promising athlete but also battling the darkness, took his own life.

All sorts of hell broke loose for Hipple after that — drugs, alcohol, jail time, until the day he was invited to pay a visit to the University of Michigan Depression Center.

“I listened to these doctors talking about depression,” he remembers. “They talked about the symptoms, the brain chemistry that’s involved, the behaviors.

“My jaw dropped. Oh my gosh, this is the thing, this is what I’ve been fighting against. I never had a name for it, nobody did. But what they were describing was something I went through, something my son died from, and now here’s a name for it. In and of itself that was freeing.”

With knowledge came the power to do something about the mental illness that had been recurring throughout his life. He finally found treatment, and with it hope.

That’s when the Eric Hipple, who excelled in the world of top-level football, who was good at figuring out what defenses were trying to do to him before they could do it, turned his competitive focus on depression.

For the past 18 years he has devoted his life to helping others understand what depression is and how it can be treated. He has worked with a number of organizations dedicated to the same, starting with the place where he first learned depression has a name — the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center.

He helped start the After The Impact program, a residential treatment program serving military veterans and former NFL players. He joined forces with Transformations, an addiction and mental health treatment facility in Florida. He talks to high schools through the Mental Illness Resource Association.

The book he wrote in 2008, “Real Men Do Cry,” received a Publisher Presidential Award. Also in 2008 he received the Life Saver Achievement Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In 2010 the Detroit Lions honored him with its Courage House Award. In 2015 the University of Michigan gave him its Neubacher Award for his work with combating the stigma that is so often associated with disabilities.

No one can say Eric Hipple hasn’t done all he can do to address head-on the “thing” nobody talked about when he was in college.

He’s thrilled that his alma mater has asked him to speak this week at commencement.

“Not only is it a great honor and a great opportunity,” he says, “but they told me the reason they asked me isn’t because of my football career. It’s because of the work I’ve done in mental health. That meant a lot. I actually got choked up a little bit when they told me that.”

The message he’s bringing back to campus is one of understanding.

“Here’s this thing, let’s not die from it, let’s understand it and know that treatments are available, that life is a continuum, that there’s always hope,” he says.

That’s what he wishes he’d heard 40 years ago.

Sailors participate in resilient workforce summit


U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

Navy Region Hawaii, along with Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations hosted a resilient workforce summit at the Ford Island Conference Center Oct. 24-25.

This year’s resilient workforce summit theme was “Culture of Excellence — Living Signature Behaviors.”

This summit is conducted on a two-year rotating schedule in the Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.

The summit gives Sailors the opportunity to directly interact with fleet program directors and subject matter experts about many topics. Such topics include leadership and personal behavior, creating a culture of dignity and respect, and suicide prevention, operational stress control and other Navy programs.

Guest speaker Eric Hipple, former quarterback for the Detroit Lions, shared life experiences that helped him be successful, and how they could translate to being a Navy leader.

“I was a good athlete, but I really got into the NFL because I had great leadership,” Hipple said.

“It is a big part of being a great team and taking the individual parts and figuring out how they work together to complete the mission. That’s really where I think the key is, at the individual level. Hopefully I can give you some tools today to get there,” he added.

Hipple mentioned how one of his high school coaches taught him that every choice he made had a consequence and he had to decide if he was going to weigh out the pros and cons of a situation. This helped him make those tough calls on field.

During the summit, PACFLT Master Chief James Honea addressed Sailors about the importance of the summit and how lessons learned at the individual level contribute to overall mission success.

“When you’re talking about your at-risk Sailors or those that need more attention, those are the opportunities to make sure that we’re doing the right thing as leaders,” Honea said. “We need to do right by them and get them the help they need. That’s what these workshops are designed to do — to help us build on those tools.”

Following Honea’s remarks, a panel of experts took the stage to answer questions on a variety of topics, including equal opportunity, sexual assault prevention and response, physical readiness, and other Navy programs.

Honea said the subject matter experts from the different Navy programs will be one of the most tremendous tools they will receive.

“It’s important that we take time to remember the role we play in the Navy as senior leadership,” said Chief Navy Counselor Demacardo Williams, a Sailor attending the summit.

“It’s my job, to my Sailors to be the best leader I can be, so when the time comes and one of my Sailors are going through something I have the insight to recognize it and help them,” Williams added.

Ex-Lions QB helps men tackle mental health stigma


Former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple ignored the growing depression that culminated in his decision to jump out the passenger door of a car traveling at 75 miles-per-hour down Interstate 275 near Canton Township.

Before that unsuccessful suicide attempt in the late 1990s, Hipple had never even thought about his mental health. He’d felt increasingly blue in the years following his release from the Lions in 1989, but he didn’t consider it a problem.

Even right after leaping from a moving vehicle, Hipple wouldn’t see a psychiatrist. That would be a sign of weakness, or so he thought.

“I was (thinking), ‘Ain’t no freakin’ way, I’m fine, this is over now, I’m good to go,’ ” Hipple said recently. “It’s part of the man thing, but it’s also part of the stigma of mental health.”

Getting men to think about mental health, and to get help if they need it, is the focus of a research project called “Healthy Men Michigan,” which is looking to break through thought patterns that keep men from seeking mental health services.

It’s funded with a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“(As a man) it’s my job to be mentally tough, so if I’m called on to run through the wall, I’ll run through the wall,” said Hipple, who has been a mental health advocate for nearly two decades now and helped shape male-oriented messages for the Healthy Men Michigan project. “We’re mission-oriented that way.

“That makes it really difficult to get to somebody and talk to them about something that might sound touchy-feely. It’s ‘Call me when it needs to be fixed.’ Let’s not talk about this stuff, just call me when it’s time.”

Men commit suicide at a rate more than three times that of women in the United States, according to the CDC. There were 20.7 suicide deaths per 100,000 American men in 2014, compared with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 women.

Many men tune out talk about depression or mental illness. So the project is reaching out to them in innovative ways, according to Jodi Frey, principal investigator for the Healthy Men Michigan project and an associate professor in the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work.

“We really need to change our mindset to reach out to this very hard-to-reach population,” Frey said. “We need to man-up our messages.”

The focal point of the study is a website where anyone, regardless of gender, can take a quick three-minute mental health screening. About a thousand

people have taken the quiz since the site launched in January 2016, about 50 percent of them male.

People found to be at risk are sent online resources, such as referrals to local mental health services, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

The website is advertised on social media, and researchers have recruited employers, sports teams, clubs and other male-oriented groups to invite men to take the quiz. Marketing messages focus on positive aspects of mental health, framing it as another form of fitness, and the manly thing to do.

Based on results of the online screenings, about 300 men ages 25-64 will be asked to participate in a study where researchers will follow up on their progress. About 150 have agreed to participate.

“This (online approach) is a real potential for getting health information out to men who aren’t connected at all to traditional health and mental health resources,” Frey said. “We’re finding that men through all of their years are coming to the site.”

‘Is this all there is?’

After a painful departure from the Lions, Hipple established a successful insurance business and did pregame shows for Fox Sports from 1995 to 2000.

But he struggled with unresolved feelings about leaving the game of football, which had consumed his life from the age of nine. He also went through a divorce.

“I was at a loss, didn’t know exactly what to do. I got the divorce, ended up getting remarried, starting a business, and kind of just threw myself into it,” Hipple recalled. “I became successful, until it hit me about five, six years later, like, this is it?

“Is this all there is? Is this what life’s going to be from now on? I lost all motivation.”

Hipple was mulling these thoughts on his way to Metro Airport, bound for a business trip when he made a decision. He scrawled a suicide note on a paper napkin.

He handed the note to his wife, Shelly, who was driving the car. Then, before she could do anything to stop him, he flung open the passenger door and jumped.

“All that stuff I’d been thinking about just kind of surfaced up, and the closer I got to the airport, I just didn’t think I could go.”

The darkest cloud of all

Hipple spent weeks in the hospital enduring surgeries and skin grafts. Though a psychiatrist visited his bedside, he didn’t want help.

Then the darkest cloud of all passed over Hipple’s life. In 2000, his 15-year-old son, Jeff, killed himself with a shotgun at his father’s home in Oakland County.

Jeff’s death shook Hipple to the core. How could his son have experienced the same dark thoughts he had wrestled with? How could he not have known?

Knowing first-hand the unspeakable pain to loved ones caused by suicide, Hipple no longer felt taking his own life was an option. Instead, he fought off his grief and anger with alcohol and risk-taking behaviors.

He was picked up for driving under the influence but balked at the terms of his probation. As a result, he spent 58 consecutive days in jail. It was there that he had a “moment of enlightenment.”

“Coming out of that was the enlightening moment, which was, ‘There is another direction I can take’, which is just pour all of this energy into something positive,” Hipple recalled.

“… We should start talking about it. Let’s find out why this happened, but let’s talk about it, too, and maybe prevent it if we can.”

Hipple got help from a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan Depression Center. And he threw himself into learning everything he could about mental health and suicide prevention.

Since then, then he’s traveled the country speaking to police, corrections officers, veterans, athletes and others about mental health, with a special focus on outreach to men.

In addition to voluntary efforts, he works with patients involved in “After the Impact,” a treatment program for people with post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and similar diagnoses.

Tailored to athletes, veterans and first responders, the program has campuses in Michigan and Florida, and is run by Ann Arbor-based Eisenhower Center.

Former Lions quarterback speaks at Mental Health Fair in Royal Oak


Meet Toby Harris a three-year old from Commerce Township who loves to watch movies with his family and act out what he sees.

Toby is on the autism spectrum; however, after being referred to Easter Seals Michigan, he has been in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for six months and is excelling.

“After his therapy, you wouldn’t even know he has autism,” said his mother, Lauren Harris.

Autism is just one of the mental and developmental issues represented at the 2016 Mental Health Fair, presented by Beaumont Health and Easter Seals Michigan, on Wednesday, May 18 in the Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak South Tower Lobby, 3601 W 13 Mile Road.

The event is designed to raise awareness of the mental health issues of everyday life. New this year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will present former NFL Detroit Lions Quarterback, Eric Hipple, who will share his personal testimonial about depression, alcohol use and suicide loss.

Guests will connect with a variety of leading organizations in the mental health field and find information about autism, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, skill building for developmentally disabled, childhood trauma, substance use, suicide prevention and domestic violence.

Easter Seals Michigan CEO Brent Wirth said, “The mission of our collaboration with Beaumont Health is to break the stigma that prevents people from seeking help when they need it.”

The event is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. May 18. If you would like to hear Hipple speak, you must RSVP with Julie Marion at 248-551-9448 or The presentation begins at 10:30 a.m. and ends at noon. Hipple will do a meet and greet in the South Tower Lobby for the general public from noon to 2 p.m.

Eric Hipple Opens Up About How Suicide Has Impacted His Life


COSTA MESA – The former quarterback, a nine-year NFL veteran who played his way into the hall of fame at Utah State, now rises to speak on the subject he knows so well. 

Those who have gathered to hear his expertise include Ryan Leaf, another former NFL quarterback, and Darrin Nelson, who gained nearly 4,500 yards as a running back for Minnesota and San Diego. 

We are all here to listen to Eric Hipple, listen to him talk about trying to kill himself.

“Most people assume I wrote a book called ‘Real Men Do Cry’ because I played all those seasons with the Detroit Lions,” Hipple jokes. “But that’s not why I wrote it at all.” 

When the subject is something as cold as suicide, why not start with an icebreaker? 

Hipple knows suicide as a survivor, his 1998 attempt having failed. But he also knows suicide as a success. 

Two years after throwing himself out a car traveling 70 mph down the freeway, Hipple lost his son, Jeff, who was 15 when he reached under his father’s bed, grabbed a gun and ended his own life. 

“This didn’t just become an epidemic,” Hipple says. “This has been a serious problem for a long, long time. It has been hidden under the surface. We need to talk about it more, spread the word.” 

So he’s here, at Simple Recovery, a chemical-dependency treatment center, talking to a group of local educators and counselors and anyone else who wanted to attend. 

Hipple, now 58, does outreach for the University of Michigan Depression Center, traveling to discuss mental health with former athletes, law enforcement personnel, the military, school officials and students. 

“The instant feedback on the field, throwing a touchdown pass and hearing 60,000 people cheer, is pretty hard to beat,” he says. “But that’s only for a moment. This is something where I’m hoping the impact lasts for a while. So this is much more rewarding.” 

He shares his story not for his sake but rather for the sake of everyone else. For those suffering from depression. For the parents of children suffering from depression. For the friends of friends suffering from depression. 

Most of all, Hipple shares his story for those experiencing depression in some form without knowing what it is, how to recognize it or how it’s treated. 

He shares his story for someone, perhaps, just like you. At least that’s what he hopes, the old quarterback tossing Hail Marys, trying to make a connection and help others find the answers that eluded him for so many years. 

He had no clue that what he was feeling – the irritability, the lack of control, the hopelessness, the isolation, the anxiety, the need to drink, the thoughts of death – even had a name. 

Following an NFL career that began with a Monday night performance so epic that the Pro Football Hall of Fame asked for his jersey, Hipple outwardly appeared fine. He had four kids, a loving wife and a job doing sports television in Detroit. 

Later, he opened an insurance business that would prove profitable enough that Hipple says he was making more money than during his playing days. 

And yet, those initial thoughts of death had moved on to considering the possibility of death, of maybe swerving his car into a tree, convinced that would solve so many problems. Only after “obsessing on it for a while,” Hipple says, did he look for an opportunity. 

En route to the airport one day for a business trip, he wrote a note on a napkin and handed it to his wife, Shelly, who was driving. “I’m sorry,” it read. “I can’t take this anymore.” He then forced open the door and sent himself skidding across the pavement. 

For years, only five people – Hipple, Shelly, his parents and a doctor – knew he had attempted suicide because his wife stashed the note in her pocket. Everyone else was told it was an accident. 

“I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to open a car door going 70 mph, but it’s hard,” Hipple says. “The story I was telling people was ridiculous. But no one wanted to consider the other possibility. It was like, ‘Hey, that’s a crazy story,’ rather than questioning what really happened. No one wanted to talk about it.” 

He recalls the memory here so matter-of-factly that the words he wrote on that napkin appear on one of the slides during his presentation, if as they aren’t the least bit intimate. 

Hipple speaks just as bluntly about his son’s suicide, about all the signs he and others around Jeff missed and wonders if more discussion could have saved Jeff’s life. 

“If someone dies in a car accident, everyone gathers together and asks about what happened,” Hipple says. “After a suicide, it’s typically silent.” 

It wasn’t until serving a 58-day jail term on a DUI conviction that Hipple reached the point of wanting to make a change, of wanting answers, of wanting to know that what he felt had a name and the name was depression. 

Along the way, he produced his book – co-written with a psychotherapist and a psychologist – 132 pages of aching confession and tender guidance, Hipple reaching deep inside himself in an effort to reach out to others. 

“The change came when my own lack of responsibility hit me,” he says. “The other guys locked up with me had no responsibility at all. I didn’t want to be one of those guys. I realized I had chosen my way to jail and I could choose my way out.” 

The story he tells here is straight from the pages of “Real Men Do Cry,” which is fitting for the old quarterback, Hipple himself the most open of books. 

For more information on the University of Michigan Depression Center, go to

To contact Simple Recovery’s 24-hour substance-abuse line, call 855-244-1933. 

For the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 800-273-8255. 

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