UTAH UTES

Former Ute WR Remembers Impact Of Childhood Hero Junior Seau Ahead Of First Book Release

May 6, 2024, 1:23 PM | Updated: 2:31 pm

Former-Utah-Football-Wide-Receiver-David-Kozlowski-Helping-Salt-Lake-Community-Find-Better-Social-H...

Kozlowski is the creator of Quit Trip'n and OG Therapy that helps teens and young adults through tough life situations. (Photo Courtesy of David Kozlowski)

(Photo Courtesy of David Kozlowski)

SALT LAKE CITY – Former Utah wide receiver David Kozlowski is now the proud author of his first book, Youth of the Nation, released this month on Amazon for Mental Health Awareness Month.

The former football player turned therapist has been an instrumental figure in improving the mental and social health of Utah teens and young adults after his own early struggles nearly ended his life.

It is Kozlowski’s hope the release of his book, which focuses on mental and social health, can serve as a reminder to everyone that they are more than what they go through in life.

 

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That theme particularly shined through as Kozlowski recalled getting to know childhood hero, Junior Seau, before he committed suicide on May 2, 2012. Seau ended his life after struggling for years with his mental health once his NFL career was over. He was just 43 years old.

Getting To Know Utah Wide Receiver Turned Therapist David Kozlowski

Kozlowski’s life story is a complicated one, and that is putting it mildly.

The Carlsbad, California native once described his life growing up as a “TV show”. Kozlowski was always actively watching what was happening around him but never felt included.

Eventually, many of the illusions of his life were shattered when he realized his “mother” was really his grandmother, and his siblings were really his aunts and uncles.

His biological mother was a drug addict, and he didn’t meet his biological father until about six years ago, well into adulthood.

By the time Kozlowski entered college at the University of Utah in the early ’90s as a wide receiver for Ron McBride, he was in a full-on identity crisis that nearly killed him several times.

 

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23 Percocets, five Vicodin, and a bunch of 800 mg Ibuprofen tablets eventually put Kozlowski in the University of Utah hospital and ultimately ended his football career.

The irony?

One of Kozlowski’s worst moments of his life ultimately saved it and gave him purpose.

Years later that moment called him back to Utah- a place he once loathed and never wanted to see again to fulfill what has clearly become his destiny.

Quit Trip’n, & OG Therapy Have Changed The “Social Health” Game

Once back in Utah, Kozlowski’s work eventually led him to a high school girl who was sexually assaulted by a friend’s dad at a sleepover.

The one-time straight-A student and cheerleader was a shell of herself, and her parents were at a loss as to how to help her. They brought her to Kozlowski who was already helping their son.

After a serious suicide attempt, the girl went to see Kozlowski with an idea that not only changed her life, but ultimately thousands of other teens in Utah.

“She explained to me this experience she had while she was in the psychiatric ward,” Kozlowski said. “She called it the ‘Noah’s Ark’ of teenagers. You’ve got two emo kids, two skater kids, two stoner kids, two jock kids, two kids who look like they are going on a mission, and she found out pretty quickly they could all relate to each other despite having different backgrounds.”

 

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Thus the idea for Quit Trip’n, Kozlowski’s first non-profit was born.

That idea has now morphed into an assembly and podcast, OG Therapy, which Kozlowski has enlisted the help of other former Utes Kenneth Scott and Robert Johnson to run.

Additionally, Kozlowski has taken the original concept of his Quit Trip’n groups and turned them into a school curriculum that Herriman High has been using with tremendous success.

“They took the risk of doing something that nobody wanted to be the first to do,” Kozlowski said. “I had high schools that considered my curriculum but didn’t want to go first. They are under lawsuits- there are a lot of issues connected with suicide. With Herriman, it was so bad they had nothing to lose. They took the risk and now social health the curriculum is off and running.”

Kozlowski Turns His Knowledge Into A Book: Youth Of The Nation

Kozlowski started writing Youth of the Nation five years ago in 2019 with the prompting of a different family he’s helped over the years.

Heidi Swapp has been a big advocate of Kozlowski’s after he spent time helping her son, Cory, with his struggles. Unfortunately, Cory ultimately lost the battle with his thoughts in 2015 at the age of 16.

Kozlowski’s book focuses a lot on working with Cory and the emotions of losing his first client to suicide.

 

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A post shared by David Kozlowksi (@david_kozlowski_)

“I want to give a shoutout to the Swapp family for allowing me to share their story in the book,” Kozlowski said. “That’s a personal thing- the details of your son dying? Every time I wrote the book and read it; I’d start crying. I want to tear up talking about it right now.”

Another source of inspiration for the book- specifically the title, came from a band, P.O.D that formed right down the street in San Diego from where Kozlowski grew up.

“There is a band, Payable On Death is what it stands for- they are a very interesting band that came out in the late ’90s,” Kozlowski said. “They blew up with the song- Youth of the Nation. It was the main score for the movie Blue Crush. They made the song because they were going to the recording studio one day in San Diego and they couldn’t get to their studio because of police, helicopters, and firetrucks. They get to the studio and found out there was a school shooting at the high school down the street. It was heavy on them. When they heard what happened they made a song- the song basically wrote itself.”

Kozlowski says he spent a lot of time listening to the song while he was writing the book and recovering from a nearly deadly combo of Covid-19 and Meningitis. Not only did listening to the song provide inspiration to keep writing and change the book title- it also just fit with what Kozlowski was trying to say.

“Every time I was writing the book I was listening to this song,” Kozlowski said. “I’d never heard a song that depicted what is going on in our culture today that was written 20 years ago. I kept writing, went through a lot of health problems and the only thing I could do was write. For some reason, when I would listen to the song and write, it would give me adrenaline. It was my muse and my inspiration the entire time I was writing the book.”

Keeping The Spirit Of 55 Alive: Remembering NFL Great And Childhood Hero Junior Seau

If Seau were alive today he’d be 55 years old- just like the number he wore on his Chargers jersey.

For Kozlowski, Seau is a symbol of many things.

Being part Polynesian and growing up in the greater San Diego area, Kozlowski sees a lot of himself in Seau. There is also the connection with mental health and wellness.

In fact, Kozlowski had several opportunities growing up to meet Seau. As Kozlowski put it, he idolized Seau the way that Seau idolized his older brothers/uncles that were in the NFL.

 

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“In our area in San Diego there were not tons of people in the NFL,” Kozlowski said. “We had a mutual family member- my uncle George was Junior Seau’s bodyguard. As Junior was coming up, I met him through my uncle George. Junior was like junior high school age, and I was a little kid. He was just another Polynesian kid I grew up around. He looked up to my brothers (uncles) who were in the NFL. Everyone thought my family was cool because we had NFL players.”

Eventually, Seau grew up to be who he was- a star linebacker for the USC Trojans and later on for the San Diego Chargers in the National Football League. As Kozlowski remembers, Seau was larger than life in form, but the kindest, most generous, lovable community hero. However, toward the end of his life, the “teddy bear” most knew him to be disappeared as his mental health declined.

“To say he was a nice guy is an understatement,” Kozlowski said. “He was a killer on the field, but the nicest guy off the field. I just looked up to him. A lot of my friends were really close to him up until his death, and all of them didn’t recognize who he was. Something was wrong. Nobody recognized him anymore.”

“He was the perfect example of ‘I am the man, I can’t show weakness,'” Kozlowski continued. “‘How can people help me when it’s my job to help everyone else?’ We all know he unfortunately died of suicide, but he shot himself in the heart so his brain could be studied. His brain was studied, and it was the worst example of CTE ever seen before.”

Seau’s death was naturally a tough one to digest for Kozlowski due to the personal connections.  Kozlowski hopes sharing stories like what Seau went through will turn a very tragic situation into one of positivity for someone else who is struggling.

“It really hit me hard,” Kozlowski said. “I knew him. I believed I could have helped him. I saw him a year before with his girlfriend. I could tell something was wrong. Something was going on. If I was his age or closer in age- he’s older than me so we weren’t peers- I just felt like I could have helped him. Since I can’t help him, I want his story and his name to go on. I just want everyone to know, that’s not who he was. It’s what he went through. His death date was May 2, and I wanted the book to be available in May to take something negative and make it positive.”

If you or someone you know is struggling the National Suicide Lifeline is available 24/7 online or at 988.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Former Ute WR Remembers Impact Of Childhood Hero Junior Seau Ahead Of First Book Release