Winnipeg Blue Bombers long-snapper/linebacker Jordan Matechuk has had his share of hurdles to overcome in his life.
Before finally getting his shot in the Canadian Football League at the Blue Bombers’ 2007 training camp, the Yorkton native bounced around three junior teams: the Regina Thunder, the Winnipeg Rifles, and the Victoria Rebels. He also spent time with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
His football challenges, however, are only the tip of iceberg. Matechuk’s biggest obstacle in life has been fighting through his bipolar disorder that he was diagnosed with in his early 20’s.
“I’ve definitely had my ups and downs,” said Matechuk, who is 27-years-old. “Depression is something I’ve had to deal with and have had to take medication for. With this disorder, I’ve felt really low sometimes. But I have worked hard to fight through it and not let it break me and just take my medication.”
Matechuk’s biggest low came in the spring of 2011 when he was arrested at U.S. border for drug possession, including steroids. The Hamilton Tiger Cats, the team he spent the previous three years with, released him shortly after the arrest and he went on to spend 90 days in prison.
“It was a really tough time in my life,” he said. “I stopped listening to my doctor around that time and bad stuff shortly after started to happen. I started to get depressed and I used drugs to help with that and ended up making some bad mistakes.”
The 5-foot-11, 236-pounder didn’t let that rough patch in his life break him, though. He fought through it, learned from it, and grew from his mistakes.
“When you make a mistake it can really hurt you, but if you learn from it, it can make you grow into a stronger person,” he said. “I have worked hard to make my mistakes help me become a stronger person. It’s not always easy, but if you try to stay positive and look for the good in stuff, you can do it.”
Following receiving his second chance in the CFL by signing a contract with Winnipeg in 2012, Matechuk has went above and beyond to turn his life around. He is now a spokesperson for the Canadian Mental Health Association, spending countless hours informing young people about depression and other life struggles.
“After I got my life back on track, I knew I wanted to give back by helping other people, especially young people, who have the same struggles as I do,” he said. “I love helping young people and letting them know they aren’t alone. I try to inform them that other people have fought through their struggles, so they can too.”
As a star athlete at the Yorkton Regional High School, Matechuk found it tough to share his struggles with depression. He felt he had to act as if everything in his life was on track to make his loved ones proud.
“I didn’t want to let people down,” he said. “I thought telling people I had these struggles would do that, so it was hard to tell people about it.”
Being open and honest with friends and family about personal issues is one of the main problems Matechuk tackles while speaking on behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“I want people in high school or college right now to know they won’t let people down when they share their problems. And that they shouldn’t keep it a secret because it’s a really tough secret to live with.”
One of Matechuk’s most recent endeavours was called “Skate & Stride” on February 23. At the Winnipeg-based event, he focused on how to deal with bullies and issues bullies struggle with.
“One in three bullies struggle with a mental illness and I wanted to get the word out there that most bullies are just acting out because they don’t know how to deal with their issues,” he said. “I’ve been the bully and I’ve been bullied. I know how it is at both ends of it. At “Skate & Stride” I wanted to raise awareness that if you are being bullied or are a bully, you need to talk to someone and get help. It’s really hard to do it on your own; everything is a lot easier with family and friends behind you.”
Next year, Matechuk plans to make even more appearances in schools and youth facilities to raise awareness on mental illness, including some stops in Saskatchewan.
“I want to reach out and help as many people as possible,” he said. “Once the football season is over, I want to talk to kids in Saskatchewan. I’ve mainly been talking to kids in Manitoba, mostly Winnipeg.”