Stephen A Smith Mental health Screen grab: The Stephen A. Smith Show

Stephen A. Smith is arguably the Dallas Cowboys’ most prominent public hater.

But while discussing the struggles of Dak Prescott, the First Take host showed his vulnerable side.

On Wednesday, Smith opened The Stephen A. Smith Show by addressing the Cowboys quarterback’s recent on-field struggles, which were highlighted in Dallas’s 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. And while noting that the heat on Prescott has been turned up to the point that some are questioning his future with the franchise, Smith said he had a friend who isn’t even a Cowboys fan beg him to show compassion due to the 30-year-old signal-caller’s history with anxiety and depression.

“I felt compelled to adopt that position,” Smith said. “That’s not going to stop me from doing my job. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it ain’t a damn mongoose. If you played like garbage, I gotta say you played bad. But there’s a glee and a joyfulness that I take from the Dallas Cowboys stinking up the joint because Dallas Cowboy fans get on my last damn nerves. But I say that in all seriousness out of fun. It’s oxymoronic to use those two words in the same sentence but it’s applicable. As serious as I am, I’m just having fun. It’s sports.”

Smith went on to discuss Prescott’s mental health struggles — some of which stemmed from his brother committing suicide in 2020 — and related them to his own struggles, which he said came as the result of his mother’s death in 2017.

“You know the scary part, that really really hit me? It was when [Prescott] said it was a couple of days before his brother passed [that he began experiencing depression],” Smith said. “He talked about how when he lost his mom seven years earlier, his brother was having trouble then. If I’m being totally honest, I know the feeling.

“Anybody who knows me know that on June 1, 2017 to be exact, Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, anybody who knows me knows what that day is. That was the day I lost the greatest woman I’ve ever known. I lost the greatest human being I’ve ever known. And that was Janet Smith, my mother.

“I never thought about killing myself. But for two years, every single day at some moment in time, I wished I was dead. That is how bad my life was without my mother.”

Smith went on to reveal that he was hit especially hard by his mother’s passing because he was single at the time and felt he no longer had someone to care for him or love him unconditionally. Smith said the hardest moment came when his mother’s casket was lowered into the ground.

“That is when it was over and I felt it was over,” Smith said. “And I wanted to die. Because she meant that much to me.”

Smith also revealed that he went to therapy to address his issues and called attention to the fact that mental health struggles can still carry a stigma, especially among Black men. Smith’s revelation was made especially powerful by Tuesday being World Mental Health Day.

Smith’s message is obviously a brave one and shows that mental health problems can affect anyone in different ways. It was also nice to see him peel back the curtain regarding his on-screen persona, especially in contrast to how others are currently discussing Prescott.

Regardless of your thoughts on his opinions or his role in debate culture taking over the sports media industry, a part of Smith’s appeal is undoubtedly his willingness to connect with his audience on a personal level when the time calls for it. And that was certainly the case here.

PSA: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and needs help, the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline can be reached at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

[The Stephen A. Smith Show]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.