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Bess needs help, not laughs, as he battles mental illness

By Omar Kelly


LAST UPDATED: 12:29 p.m. HST, Jan 24, 2014

The look on their faces reinforced that Davone Bess was making a difference in the lives of others.

The reception he often received served as proof hope could be injected into someone’s life. That’s why Bess was always willing to recount his mistakes.

He’d recap his 15-month sentence. Recall the college scholarship lost by bad decisions, and recollect the tough road traveled courtesy of good decisions, dedication and hard work.

Bess kept on believing in himself and made it from incarceration as a youngster to star at the University of Hawaii to NFL starter. He often told his story in South Florida school auditoriums and libraries, and in centers for troubled youngsters to inspire someone to change their ways, to seek help, to never give up.

Right now Bess needs someone to do the same for him, helping him navigate his way out of the dark place he’s in, which apparently features drug use, erratic behavior, and last Friday’s arrest for allegedly assaulting an officer with hot coffee at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Warning signs were everywhere.

In recent weeks, Bess’ behavior on social media had become increasingly troubling, especially when a photo posted on his official Twitter account on Jan. 16 included what looked like marijuana. He missed the final two games of the 2013 season to address what the Cleveland Browns labeled as “family, personal issues.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, people who are close to Bess say “he’s lost,” and that family issues, which include a pending divorce, have turned into mental issues. And those troubles go back to the start of 2013.


We laugh, we gawk, we criticize, we point fingers and whisper when Bess leaves the Ft. Lauderdale jail smirking at the cameras, and telling the world “One Love.”

We joke that this six-year NFL veteran and former Miami Dolphins starter has lost his way. How many of us have asked whether Bess is in his right mind? And better yet, how many of us care?

He’s just another example of a fallen athlete, celebrity, gone wild. Chalk his saga up in the column of “I told you so.”

Problem with human nature is we don’t sympathize enough with people’s troubles until they become a tragedy.

We don’t look at Bess’ or Titus Young’s mental health issues as something tragic, something serious until they turn into the next Junior Seau or Jovan Belcher, and take their lives, or the lives of others.

The way I see it, that’s a tragedy in itself. Professionals should have interpreted Bess’ tweets as cries for help. The Browns and the NFL should have been making sure he was getting it.

Bess needs help now. The same kind of help Young needed before his NFL career spiraled out of control.


This isn’t about making excuses for Bess. His actions don’t deserve any.

Weed might be getting legalized in a couple of states, but nobody should be advertising drug use, especially when children idolize you.

He’s not the first athlete to send out a naked picture of himself on social media, and probably won’t be the last. But the world can do without them all.

And threatening to fight an officer is never acceptable, no matter the cause of the altercation.

But the randomness, the head scratching nature of Bess’ actions the past few days only serves as a warning sign there’s a deeper problem, and hints he’s probably suffering from mental health issues.

That’s a scary place because it means the brain has called out sick. Problem is Bess doesn’t know that, which means in his mind everything he’s doing, saying, thinking, feeling, makes sense. And that’s a shame, because Bess has spent six years silencing his critics, inspiring young people, and living out his own childhood dream.

In one month he’s either jeopardized it all, or given himself a second act to touch others, another opportunity to inspire more lives.

But first Bess has got to figure out how to help himself.

My concern isn’t about Bess’ NFL contract, or his future in the league. It’s about his ability to make himself whole again in this broken world that views him as a punchline.


Omar Kelly writes for the Sun-Sentinel in Florida.

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Bdpapa wrote:
Wow! Very good info, Thanks.
on January 24,2014 | 05:20AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
We're there any indications of mental illness while he was a UH? Mental illness doesn't manifest itself all of a sudden. I truly hope he can find help. He was a good guy who had a positive influence on his community and if he does get help, he can continue to do just that. Best of health, Davone.
on January 24,2014 | 06:08AM
shmellycat808 wrote:
Actually, mental illness can just appear. For males, schizophrenia most often appears their late teens or early twenties; for females, in their late twenties or early thirties. So, he could have gone from having no symptoms prior to now.
on January 24,2014 | 11:54AM
suecee wrote:
bipolar can also " just appear" anytime from the teens on... whatever it is... I hope he gets the help he needs, and quickly, for his sake.
on January 24,2014 | 08:00PM
CartwrightPark wrote:
I wish the best for Bess. He was a cool guy and awesome player during his time at UH. The Colt, Bess, Rivers days were so awesome!!!
on January 24,2014 | 07:04AM
fairgame947 wrote:
Has our good brother June reached out to him?
on January 24,2014 | 08:25AM
scottiebie wrote:
Is the UH Football Ohana reaching out to a former brother?
on January 24,2014 | 08:43AM
Anonymous wrote:
I understand what you mean but how many are still connected with UH anymore? Kinda sad if you think about it.
on January 24,2014 | 10:16AM
loveneverfails wrote:
You have the right thought. Some people may scoff at the idea, but truly repenting, asking God to forgive, picking up your torture stake and following Jesus every day, after day.. will lift every man out from his pit of destruction. It is the only WAY.
on January 24,2014 | 07:29PM
ezridah wrote:
concussion related ?
on January 24,2014 | 11:36AM
1R1E wrote:
on January 24,2014 | 01:29PM
GoldenRule wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 24,2014 | 11:52AM
sjean wrote:
I think that was ashley lelie.
on January 24,2014 | 12:44PM
droid wrote:
GoldenRule’s comment was actually an insult to local boy Lelie.
on January 25,2014 | 12:55AM
W_Williams wrote:
God bless Devon Bess. You too, for writing this.
on January 24,2014 | 01:55PM
Skyler wrote:
Drug use can and often does induce mental illness.
on January 24,2014 | 03:07PM
815aria wrote:
Mr Omar Kelly what a great story...... I thought the same thing when I heard the news..... He needs help. From what I remember of his time here in Hawaii, he was always ready and willing to help out for any good cause. He is definitely a good guy and one I will keep in my prayers....
on January 24,2014 | 03:10PM
kuniagirl wrote:
Great article. God Bless him.
on January 24,2014 | 03:44PM
Qbcoach15 wrote:
His family from his former high school, Skyline High in Oakland are reaching out to him. As a former position coach of Davone's, I spoke with our former head coach John Beam before he headed on a plane to Florida. The thought of losing a wife and two children can break a man. Sure Davone's made mistakes to put himself in this position but I truly believe he will over come his demons, surround himself with positive people and get through this. Davone loves & respects Coach Beam like a father, so seeing Coach will be a positive for Davone and those who truly care about him. Those who care about him as a person and not just as a paycheck.
on January 24,2014 | 04:44PM
loveneverfails wrote:
It's not "his" demons. They are satans demons and we don't possess them, but rather - they do the possessing.
on January 24,2014 | 07:16PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Yes, right. It seems that everyone today with a problem of any kind has a mental illness. Their problems never are cause by their own irresponsible behavior or conduct. It always is caused by an “illness” which entitles them to disability payments. Bess’ problem may not be self-induced, but my money says it is.
on January 24,2014 | 07:41PM
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