WESTFIELD — Nick Hardwick is most-known for his decade-long career captaining the San Diego Chargers' offensive line. However, he believes he did not find peace within himself until after his retirement.
"I really believe that life is better now than it was when I was an NFL player," said Hardwick, who played college football at Purdue before his professional career. "Life is wonderful."
Hardwick now lives in Westfield and helps coach the community's high school football team.
The Men of Westfield, a newly-formed community group, invited Hardwick to speak Sunday night about the mental struggles he faced and the importance of opening up for help.
"There's always something to improve on," Hardwick told the crowd. "Every single day there's something to improve on in your life. Until the day that I die, I better be working on something."
Hardwick told the group about the stress he faced upon retirement and the dark thoughts he overcame.
"Two months after I left the game, I was suicidal," Hardwick said. "I lost my identity, my passion, my community, my team and my goals."
He said he found purpose in finding new communities and new people to trust, and encouraged the Men of Westfield to do the same.
"The biggest thing that we can all do is just be there for one another for when the adverse times come, because no one is immune to adverse times," Hardwick said.
The Men of Westfield hope to have another conversation about mental health soon to build on the foundation Hardwick laid Sunday night.
"Sometimes it's hard for grown men to come together and have a conversation about some difficult topics," said Men of Westfield founder Michael Good. "It is a struggle. Men inherently want to push it all down and navigate through it. It's all about the right setting, the right type of conversation, and the right person to instigate that conversation."