One year later, Ben Heeney reflects on best friend's suicide


Tony Avelar/Associated Press

When the pads come off, Ben Heeney keeps doing the work. Discover his and other NFL players' charitable causes in their own words at The Players' Tribune as part of a special My Cause My Cleats collaboration with NFL Media.

*Below is an excerpt from Heeney's powerful reflection on the suicide of his best friend and former University of Kansas teammate, Brandon Bourbon.
*

On the day my family and I almost died, Brandon Bourbon was the first person who texted me.

It was March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, about a week before Brandon went missing. My wife Taylor and I were running late for church. Our six-month-old son, Tate, was in the backseat, and for some reason - to this day I couldn't tell you why - Taylor decided to sit back there with him. So Tate was in the middle in his car seat, and Taylor was sitting directly behind me as I drove our SUV down a four-lane Kansas highway.

It had snowed the night before, and there was slush on the roads. The exit snuck up on me because we were in Taylor's hometown, so I wasn't familiar with the roads. Just as we were approaching a small bridge, I changed lanes to make a dash for our exit so I didn't miss it.

You know those signs that say BRIDGE MAY ICE IN COLD WEATHER or BRIDGE FREEZES BEFORE ROAD?

They're right.

As soon as my tires hit the bridge they slid on a patch of ice and we spun out. We bounced off the concrete wall on the right side of the bridge like a pinball and kept spinning. When the car came to a stop, it had turned a full 180 degrees. We were still on the same side of the road, but facing the wrong way with oncoming traffic barreling toward us.

For some reason, the oncoming cars didn't slow down. They just went whipping past us in the open lane next to us. From the line of cars, I saw one slide out of line and into our lane. It was going about 60 mph, and the driver didn't see us ... until the very last second, when he swerved to try and avoid hitting us.

But he couldn't avoid it. He plowed into the front passenger side of our car - right where Taylor would normally be sitting. The impact tore the front wheel clean off.

Somehow, nobody was seriously injured.

As we waited for the police to arrive, I sent out a quick Snapchat with a photo from the accident. Within seconds, I got a text from Brandon. He had seen my snap, and he asked if everything and everybody was O.K.

I told him everything was fine and that I would call him later.

He said I didn't have to ... he just wanted to make sure we were O.K.

That's a difficult moment for me to look back on now, because I would later learn that as I was standing there on that highway, just feeling grateful and happy to be alive ... somewhere in the back of his mind, my best friend on the other end of the phone was wishing he was dead.

To read the rest of Ben Heeney's emotional story, visit The Players' Tribune.

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