A longtime advocate of mental health, former NFL star Brandon Marshall is still helping to transform lives

How are you feeling today, on a scale of one to 10? Like, really feeling?

Because Brandon Marshall would like to know.

He doesn’t need to listen. He doesn’t need to care. His resume, as a six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who earned an estimated $80 million over 13 seasons in the NFL, gives him the freedom to focus on himself, and little else. He could remain comfortably retired at age 38, pouring resources exclusively into his family of four. He could rest easy, knowing his name is already etched in the record books, with more career receiving yards than all but 22 players to ever play the game.

But that aspect of Brandon Marshall’s life is no more.

“My entire life, since I was 6, I had this dream, this vision of making it to the National Football League,” Marshall tells CBS Sports. “And so everything was self-serving. It was me, me, me, me, me. It was my goals, what I want. My contract. My stats.”

In 2011, at the height of his playing career, following a string of off-field arrests, everything changed. He was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. He vowed to seek the care he needed. He found a new identity through Christianity. And he discovered his purpose — not just as an athlete — but as a man.

“[That] is when I realized that I was here to push the Gospel forward and to also bring others along,” he explains. “How can I make this world better? This whole mental health thing … is my ministry.”

No one would argue that. Since revealing his diagnosis more than a decade ago, Marshall has increasingly put his vulnerability on display while advocating for others’ well-being. His unscripted athlete-led talk show, “I AM ATHLETE,” prioritizes raw perspectives, in some ways modeling the transparency of therapy sessions. And his House of Athlete initiative, which just launched the HOA+ holistic training program, goes a step further.

“HOA is the new therapy,” Marshall says. “It’s the new therapist’s office. That’s what we’re doing here. … As a professional athlete, when I walked into the Jets and Giants locker room, everything was integrated. My nutritionist was here. … My strength and conditioning coach was right across the hall. I had a mental health practitioner that was in the building. We had doctors, we had clinicians. Everything was integrated.”

Marshall’s goal, in creating HOA+ and offering live one-on-one coaching, isn’t to further burden people with a checklist. It’s to prioritize the right things — like making space for focused efforts such as exercise and meditation — in a distracted world.

“The way I’ve been trained, the way I’ve been coached, the way I’ve been taught — the structure, the lifestyle, the routine — that’s what [this] is, it’s a routine,” he says. “How are we able to do what we do? It’s because of the routine, leaning into the fundamentals. Every day I have an itinerary. When I walked into [locker rooms], from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. was mapped out for me. When am I working out? When am I eating? When am I meeting with my coaches? When am I seeing this doctor, that doctor? When I am getting in the hot tub, cold tub? … Now that I’m not performing on a football field, I think my lifestyle, you [wanna] take that and give that to the masses.”

The endgame, however, isn’t just self-improvement. It’s positively transforming those around you.

“I think where it starts for us is knowing that strength is asking your brother for help,” Marshall says. “Strength is, you know, being able to show vulnerability. A lot of times we internalize these things and we don’t share them.”

It’s a coincidence that Marshall’s HOA+ went live days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But Dr. King, in particular, has long served as an inspiration for the pass catcher, being that he was civic-minded by way of the faith that changed his own life. Few community leaders have been so publicly vulnerable, and affected culture as a result.

“I’m living a dream,” Marshall explains, “because I’m able to walk in a restaurant and sit with everyone else. I’m living a dream because I’m able to sit on [shows] today with my dreads. I’m living a dream because I’m able to speak the same way — whether I’m in front of a coach, in front of an executive, a TV producer — the same way I speak with my friends and at home. I’m living a dream because Martin Luther King stood up and marched and fought for us.”

And now? It’s Marshall’s dream to keep pouring his own story — and his own resources — right back into the community.

“There’s still a ton of work to do,” he says. “I think we need to continue to be bold and unapologetic and share our experiences and share our stories. … The biggest thing I want to see is … investing in each other.”

Sometimes, that can be as simple as asking a question, and genuinely caring for the answer. A question as simple as, how are you feeling today?