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Charles Walker a changed man thanks to depression diagnosis

PHILADELPHIA -- Oklahoma defensive tackle Charles Walker has battled depression his entire life. He just didn't know it until he left school and declared for the NFL Draft.

This is according to letters from Walker and his doctor, Ashley Benjamin, MD, recently sent to teams. Benjamin wrote, "based on my military, coaching, and sport psychiatry backgrounds, I believe that Mr. Walker's depression is currently in full remission and is not a limitation for NFL-level competition."

Walker has been on the phone, telling teams he is a changed man thanks to the diagnosis.

Walker exited Oklahoma amid some controversy, immediately declaring for the draft in November and drawing criticism from coach Bob Stoops. He is considered a mid-round pick.

He reportedly battled concussions in his final season, though doctors now think some of the symptoms believed to be concussion-related were actually from depression.

Walker has been taking low-dose medication for his ailment, writing to teams to let them know how different his life has become.

"I am excited and anxious to get back on the football field because now that my Depression is under control with the medication (Prozac) that I am taking," Walker wrote. "I have never been more HUNGRY to get back after it. To strap up my pads and leave it all on the field. Play in and Play out."

Walker told teams he thinks he's suffered from depression for years. He was evaluated by Benjamin on Dec. 21 as part of a peak-performance screening done with all athletes at his training facility. He had three follow-up exams.

"Overall, he described improved mood, no anhedonia or loss of interest or motivation problems," Benjamin said. "In addition, he felt the medication improves his sleep, appetite, and concentration, memory and focus."

Walker reported no side effects and said the medication has helped him on the field.

"As a former Air Force and current sport psychiatrist, as well as a former collegiate track and field coach with an M.A. in Exercise Science, I understand the impact that untreated depression can have on performance," Benjamin wrote. "I also appreciate the bias that exists against antidepressants. Many athletes perform on anti-anxiety and concentration sustaining medications."

In his letter, Walker told teams he is not a quitter, has never been in trouble, and will never be a distraction. But mostly, he wanted to inform teams of his recent discovery: "I am ready, committed and hungry."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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