A Football Player’s Mental Health Struggle Led Him Toward New Ambitions

“You’re only a football player, and it’s not expected that you would really be anything more. I hated that mind-set, not being an individual, not being able to be yourself.”

In April, he left Portland State. Mike Lund, the college’s athletic department spokesman, said in a telephone interview this month that it seemed Isaiah had lost his passion for the game.

Isaiah said he and his girlfriend, Madison Bickel, who had stood by him during his troubles, decided to split up, though they remain friends.

Despite the tumult, Isaiah, now 22, said he felt better than ever.

And as creative as ever.

He works at a Nordstrom department store near Beverly Hills, where he sells the latest in designer fashions. He said he no longer dreamed about the N.F.L., instead imagining a career in design — or maybe as a Hollywood art director, “shooting cool videos and all that.”

The Times article opened a new world to him. It is still rare to read about a young African-American athlete struggling so openly with mental illness. Readers, he said, responded with deep appreciation. Dozens of them, he said, told him that he had helped them understand depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.

He has been invited to speak publicly about easing the stigma of mental illness, particularly for young people and people of color, and did so most recently in September at a Barclays Center conference for youth activists.

He knew that his dark feelings might return and that he had to be vigilant — aware of his moods, and ready to get help if he needed it. But speaking publicly, he said, was good medicine.