Dallas Center-Grimes football coach Scott Heitland received a text message from Coty Lemon in December.
“Hey, can I talk to you?”
It sounded like a simple request for a player to ask of his coach. But when the junior defensive lineman met with Heitland, he unloaded his burden.
He was depressed, he told his coach, and it was more than he could handle.
“When he was at his toughest point, he came to me and said he needed help,” Heitland said.
Lemon was feeling lost. At one point last spring, he was failing six classes.
“I missed a lot of school,” Lemon said. “I just didn’t want to do anything. That’s when my grades started going down.”
He needed a fresh start. Lemon made the decision to change schools entering his fall — he moved from Dallas Center-Grimes to Johnston. He’s sitting out the first four weeks of the football season, given the consequences of his academic downward spiral.
“Coty deserves credit by coming forward, by saying, ‘I can’t do this by myself anymore,'” Heitland said.
His athletic career has helped keep him connected to others and focused on moving forward while he deals with his mental health.
“Football has been what’s been keeping me going, and it’s giving me hope,” said Lemon, now a senior.