In any game, the objective is to win. Moving across the field, players focus on outplaying their opponent and controlling the tempo of the game. However, more important than that is their will to never give up. To never give up on opportunities. To never give up on their teammates and to never give up on themselves. It's a fight that is challenged day in and day out. Facing a similar fight of will, but in a different uniform is U.S Army veteran Kinikia Burdine.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Burdine has dedicated her life to serving her country as a combat officer in the U.S. Army. However, while she was fighting to defend our country, she was also fighting mental health issues. A constant battle within, Burdine's condition worsened after returning from a tour in Iraq.
Keeping her will to never give up, she turned her life around after attending Dallas County Veterans Treatment Court which is led by Judge Dominique Collins. Burdine now has a Master of Social Work degree from Texas A&M Commerce and is a licensed social worker who works in hospice and provides mental health counseling for people struggling with depression and anxiety. She is also currently working on her Doctorate of Social Work at the University of Southern California.
Most recently, Burdine was invited by the Dallas Cowboys to present the team's No.12 pick in the 2021 draft to highlight the importance of mental health.
"The Dallas Cowboys are so inspired by Kinikia and her story of service and perseverance through adversity," said Charlotte Jones, Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer. "Her strength and drive can serve as an example to others that are struggling with mental health. We were honored to have her make our pick in Cleveland and be a part of our Cowboys family in that special moment."
Advocating that "it's never too late to live", Burdine works to help keep the mental health conversation open; believing healing is easier when you have someone invested in your success.
Joining Burdine in the conversation of mental health are Dallas Cowboys veteran Dak Prescott and rookie Osa Odighizuwa.
Prescott, who has been open about his concerns on the subject of mental illness, partnered with Ford to surprise veterans by revamping their Salvation Army meeting space. Speaking with the veterans virtually, the quarterback shared the message of "never giving up hope, because there is always help."
Continuing to push for communication, Prescott emphasized mental health awareness during a recent interview on Up Close with Sage Steele. During the interview, he shared the isolation struggles he faced during the pandemic and the experience of losing his brother. Up Close will start streaming in June on ESPN+.
Understanding the need for honest communication through his own family's struggles, Odighizuwa wants NFL locker rooms to be spaces where players in crisis can seek help. With mental illness affecting his father and his brother, the rookie recently interviewed with the NFL to share his family's story. He has also teamed up with the NFLPA, delivering mental health tips to encourage everyone to acknowledge what we're feeling and do daily check-ins to stay mentally sound throughout the year.