NFL

Ex-Patriots Offensive Lineman Ryan O’Callaghan Intended to End His Life After His NFL Career

When his days blocking for Tom Brady on the New England Patriots were over, Ryan O’Callaghan had a plan in mind.

O’Callaghan’s plan had nothing to do with broadcasting or owning a small business like other athletes. Upon the finale of his career, O’Callaghan intended to end his own life — and would have, if not for Scott Pioli and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ryan O’Callaghan began his career with the New England Patriots

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A standout offensive lineman at the University of California, Berkley, Ryan O’Callaghan couldn’t have picked a better team to draft him.

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots invested a fifth-round pick on O’Callaghan in the 2006 NFL draft’s fifth round. O’Callaghan played in 11 games and started six at right tackle as a rookie, then saw most of his action on special teams in 2007.

New England opened that season with 18 straight wins before Eli Manning, David Tyree, and the New York Giants pulled off a 17-14 victory in Super Bowl 42.

O’Callaghan missed the entire 2008 season with an injury. The Patriots cut O’Callaghan in September 2009 and the Chiefs, who had former Patriots executive Scott Pioli serving as the general manager, immediately signed him.

O’Callaghan played in 14 games and started 12 for the Chiefs in 2009. He moved back to a special teams role in 2010, playing in 11 games and starting one for Matt Cassel and the AFC West Division champions.

O’Callaghan intended to end his life after his NFL career

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Ryan O’Callaghan suffered another injury in 2011 and his career effectively ended after the season.

O’Callaghan played in 51 games across four seasons, although he officially earned time for six full campaigns. 

Now came time for the next stage of O’Callaghan’s plan. O’Callaghan had always intended to die by suicide when his career ended.

O’Callaghan lived his football career as a closeted gay man. In interviews after coming out, O’Callaghan admitted that he used football as a cover for his sexuality.

O’Callaghan explained his post-retirement intentions to NPR in June 2017.

“I was going to shoot myself. It was the easy way. I didn’t look at it as being selfish. You know I used to think we all have the right to disappear. It’s our body.”

According to Outsports, O’Callaghan wrote a suicide note at his small cabin outside of Kansas City.

The Kansas City Chiefs saved O’Callaghan’s life

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As he prepared to end his life, Ryan O’Callaghan continued his physical therapy at the Chiefs’ facility.

O’Callaghan met with Susan Wilson, a clinical psychologist, to go over his abuse of painkillers. During those sessions, O’Callaghan eventually told Wilson that he was gay.

After the 2011 season ended, an emotional O’Callaghan met with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. O’Callaghan told Pioli that he had gotten “clean” and no longer abused painkillers.

According to Outsports, O’Callaghan then told Pioli about his sexuality. Pioli reacted favorably and went to embrace O’Callaghan when the meeting ended.

O’Callaghan, thinking that Pioli wouldn’t want to hug him, extended his hand for Pioli to shake. Pioli nonetheless hugged his offensive lineman.

Ryan O’Callaghan has shared his story publicly in recent years

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Ryan O’Callaghan has tried using his own story to motivate others.

O’Callaghan publicly came out as gay in June 2017 in an interview with Outsports. Two years later, O’Callaghan released My Life on the Line, an autobiography detailing his journey and how he has lived since publicly revealing his sexuality.

In a heartwarming next step on his incredible journey, O’Callaghan also began dating a man after he came out.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.