(WETM) – Morgan Rodgers was a typical 22-year-old. She was a daughter, sister, friend and teammate. Now her legacy lives on.
“She was determined,” said her mother, Donna Rodgers. “She was competitive. She was strong-willed. She has achieved everything she set out to do. ”
There are not enough adjectives to describe Morgan Rodgers. The young woman from Northern Virginia had her whole life ahead of her. As a high school student, talented programs across the country began recruiting Morgan to play the female lacrosse of Division I.
In 2014, she accepted an offer to play for the women’s lacrosse team at Duke University.
“She’s having so much fun on the field,” said Donna Rodgers. “It was all business on the field, but stupid.
In January 2017, just before the start of his second season, Morgan suffered a dream-shattering knee injury. The injury left Morgan out of control.
Morgan begins to feel anxious and depressed.
She suffered in silence, struggling with her mental health. In July 2019, Morgan died of suicide.
“She really felt she had to keep it a secret and keep it really quiet,” Donna Rodgers said. “She had a lot of resources at her fingertips, but she didn’t take advantage of any of them. We had no idea about the extent of her illness and how deep and severe it was for her until she left. “
Her mother, Donna, left with more questions than she answered.
“What went wrong?” Donna Rodgers asked. “How did we miss all the signs?”
Rodgers’ family and friends spent years in a dark cloud after Morgan’s death. A cloud that still hangs over their heads.
However, out of the darkness, the Rodgers family created Morgan’s Message. A non-profit organization that seeks to remove the stigma surrounding mental health in the student-athlete community. It also aims to equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics. What started as a podcast has become much more.
Now more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country are involved in being ambassadors of Morgan’s Message.
“So we decided we needed an educational program,” said Donna Rodgers. “This is a group of meetings that these ambassadors hold on campus about once a month.”
Hillary Hoover, ambassador for Morgan’s Message to Cornell’s women’s lacrosse team, said she was grateful that her team was participating in various seminars.
“We were able to be vulnerable and share with each other some of the struggles we faced as student-athletes,” Hoover said. “There’s a lot of comfort in knowing you’re not alone.”
Hoover said it’s easy to associate your identity with who you are as an athlete.
“It can be an amazing thing,” Hoover said. “But if you don’t perform as well as you want to be on the field or in the classroom, it’s easy to damage your mental health.
Jenny Graap, head coach of Cornell’s women’s lacrosse, said she was proud of the ambassadors on her team.
“[I’m proud] to have an environment in which students-athletes from Cornell’s women’s lacrosse team … can recognize the benefits of having these conversations. ”
Graap also added that he hopes these talks will spread to other teams at Cornell University.
“We couldn’t ask for more,” said Donna Rodgers. “[We couldn’t ask] for more than just getting these kids to help if that’s what they want. ”
For more information on Morgan’s message, story or ambassadorial program, visit the website here.