SEATTLE - Former University of Washington Huskies are speaking openly about mental health and have created a clothing line to have those discussions.
"In unison with my mental illness being depression and anxiety, part of trying to conquer that was wearing my heart on my sleeve. So, not being afraid of those emotions. If I’m sad, I’m not pushing it down. In a way, I’m embodying it," he said.
Porter, a punter and Myles Gaskin, now an NFL running back, played together at UW, but they’ve been friends since middle school. Their ability to talk about the hard things is now the foundation of their business aimed at helping others.
When talking about Porter, Gaskin said, "You always want to see your best friends happy, always having the best day of their lives. When you see your best friend down, it kind of bothers you."
Porter graduated from UW after averaging 48.5 yards per punt last fall, the school’s single-season record.
He said he's giving the NFL a shot and is training for it right now.
His journey started as a walk-on, but while Porter was winning the fight to become a starter, he was battling another.
"I had been dealing with depression for so long. It kind of just would sweep me off my feet," Porter said
So, he found something that kept him grounded. Porter started ironing hearts onto his shirts to express how he felt, and it turned into a clothing line, "Heart On My Sleeve," called "HOMS" for short.
"I got to a point with the starting of the brand, where I was like I’ve got to do something about this. I’m going to take control of it. I’m not going to just let it whisk me away," Porter said.
HOMS launched in May 2019. Its design delivers a powerful, personal message.
Porter describes it, saying, "It represents the phases your heart goes through throughout life. So, there’s the full heart, half-broken, full-broken." He adds, "I tell people you’re supposed to read it kind of like a speedometer. It can be anywhere at any time, depending on whether it’s 30 minutes ago, it was here, and now it’s here, or it’s been here for three weeks or it’s been here for two months."
"It sparks conversation. And, when you tell somebody it’s about mental health everybody can connect to that." Gaskin said. "Just to hear other people talk about mental health, what they’ve been through, and how they think this is unique is very inspiring to me."
One sweatshirt, one heart, one conversation at a time. These two are spreading the message that however you feel, you don’t have to feel it alone.
"I wish I would have had this dialogue with people at a younger age, when I was in high school or when I was in middle school." Gaskin said. "Race kind of opened my mind up to thinking more freely and thinking I’m okay saying certain things and feeling certain type of ways."
"He really kind of showed me a new way to deal with mental health and create better moods and all he was, was just a friend," Porter said.
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