Penn State Nittany Lions kicker Joey Julius appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday for his first TV appearance since announcing he received treatment for a binge-eating disorder earlier this year.
Julius is a fan favorite among Penn State football fans and is known for handling kickoffs and delivering crushing blows on kickoff coverage. At 258 pounds, he is one of the most physically imposing kickers in college football.
Although he is a force on the field, Julius has battled his eating disorder constantly. In front of his team and friends he would eat salads to make it appear he was eating healthy, only to return to his dorm room alone, where he would order takeout food and binge eat.
After struggling for years, Julius decided to seek professional help for his eating disorder.
Earlier this year, Julius was absent from the team during spring and summer workouts while he received treatment. He entered treatment May 9 and left July 26.
“That’s when I was like, ‘You know what? If I would’ve continued down this path, I might not be here right now,'” Julius said on “Good Morning America.”
Julius first went public about his eating disorder in a heartfelt Facebook post on Oct. 3.
“After a long consideration of not only myself, my family and my team, I have decided to go public about my absence from the team during spring ball of 2016 and throughout this summer,” he wrote. “I was admitted into the McCallum Place on May 9th for eating disorders.”
In the post, Julius said he has struggled with an eating disorder the last 11 years of his life, and that the support from Penn State head football coach James Franklin, the training staff and his doctors helped him through this difficult time.
Julius ended his post with an offer to support anyone struggling with similar issues. He called for anyone suffering from eating problems to message him on Facebook for support. He said he would reply immediately to talk to them about his own struggles and to help in any way he could.
Since going public about his struggles with eating disorders, Julius’s team and coaches have rallied behind him.
“I’m very, very proud of Joey. I really am, in so many ways” Franklin said during a press conference. “We’re just here to support Joey and his family in every way we possibly can.”
Quarterback Trace McSorley reaffirmed that team support in a conference call the day after Julius’s Facebook post.
“We’re proud of him for coming out with everything and feeling like he’s in a place where he can do that,” McSorley said. “That’s a big step for him, and we’re excited that he’s able to make that step.”
Julius says that eating disorders do not affect only women and that the stereotype is inaccurate.
“I just think it’s completely false,” said Julius. “I mean, we all eat.”
When asked in the “Good Morning America” interview if he thinks there are men struggling with eating disorders who are too ashamed to come forward and seek help, Julius said, “I think so, because I was one of those guys.”
In the United States, 2 to 5 percent of the population experiences binge-eating disorder. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of Americans with anorexia or bulimia are male, according to a review in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
A study by Cornell University found that 40 percent of male football players surveyed displayed behaviors associated with an eating disorder.