Darryl Talley was a 14-year NFL veteran. The linebacker is best known for his prominent role with those Buffalo Bills teams that reached four straight Super Bowls without winning the big one.
Fast forward two decades, and Talley's life is one he never imagined. As revealed in a profile by Tim Graham in The Buffalo News, Talley now lives in fear. The bank has foreclosed on his home and his small business post-NFL failed.
His physical health is in decline, too: Talley suffered a heart attack in his 40s and later discovered he'd played professional football with a broken neck. He is rarely able to sleep more than 90 minutes at a time.
And the battering his brain took in head-on collisions, Talley suspects, have compromised his mind. He suspects his brain is deteriorating, and he lives in a state of extreme depression -- one so bad he openly talks about committing suicide.
The circumstances are so bad that Talley doesn't hold on to any pretense of hope. He and his wife, college sweetheart Janine Talley, have grim outlooks on the days ahead.
"I never thought this would be our life, but this is the reality of it," Janine Talley told The Buffalo News. "I don't see it getting any better. This’ll kill him one way or the other.
"His mental issues have accelerated a lot in the last year. I don’t know what the future holds for either one of us. I don’t know if in a few years dementia will set in. I don’t know if I’ll be able to care for him."
Talley and those around him strongly suspect the former linebacker is suffering from CTE. But currently, a diagnosis can only come in death, when experts are able to open up the brain and search for evidence.
In the meantime, Talley feels like the Bills franchise has dismissed him, while the NFL won't accept its role in his present problems.
In fact, the NFL denied him enrollment in its best disability plan on the grounds that Talley didn't properly file his paperwork. Instead of that $120,000 per year package, Talley receives the "B" package, worth only $39,000 annually.
Darryl Talley once possessed credit so strong he could get a loan from the banks whenever he wanted. Now, his credit is so destroyed that his current landlord required three months' rent in advance.
Now, his memory is starting to fail in noticeable ways. His wife and daughter openly discuss their fears of him committing suicide, although neither sees much reason to have hope in the situation.
And while Talley doesn't like to take sympathy or charity from others, he knows he's not in a position to turn help away -- especially when the NFL and the Bills organization are so resistant in helping him get the services he needs.
“I’m not convinced that I’m dead yet," Darryl Talley said. “But the future doesn’t look bright. People say these are supposed to be the twilight years of your life. When are they coming? The stars aren’t twinkling."
Update: A Bills fan named Frank Thomas Croisdale created a Go Fund Me account to help Talley, and it raised more than $100,000 in the first two days.