Garrett Gilkey makes his living battling the biggest, strongest, toughest men in the NFL -- but that's nothing compared to what he battled as a kid.
"I was the target of the biggest and baddest kids in the school," Garrett Gilkey told some local elementary students.
That's right. This 6'6", 325 lb. Cleveland Browns Offensive Lineman was bullied.
"The reality is whether you're a six-year-old girl or a 23-year old Offensive Lineman, you can experience bullying," Garrett said.
Two events coincided to change Gilkey's young life. His family moved from a city to a small town when he was in middle school and at the same time, a heart condition put football on hold.
Suddenly, Gilkey just didn't fit in.
"I was constantly afraid every time I went to class -- who was gonna push me, who was gonna knock my books down," Gilkey added. "That was probably hardest thing knowing that as much as I wanted to build relationships and make friends, there was nothing I could do to accomplish that."
Garrett focused on academics and joined the math team. He remembers one assembly in particular, and one of the most painful moments of his life.
"They were saying everyone's name alphabetically and everyone was cheering so I was like, OK, they're gonna cheer for me too. Then what happens? There's a thousand kids in the room. They say my name and right away, the entire school booed me," explained Garrett. "Afterwards, I ran straight into the bathroom and cried."
Ten years later, Garrett has made it his mission to share that pain.
"It's very easy for kids to fall into isolation. It's important for kids to know they are not alone," said Garrett.
The Browns' final draft pick a year ago, out of tiny Chadron State, a Division II school, he's using his platform as an NFL player to educate others that bullying is unacceptable -- at all ages, in all sizes.
"When you see someone being bullied, say 'hey, that's not acceptable, don't do that!' Be the voice," said Garrett.
If you would like to send Garrett Gilkey a message hit him up on Twitter at @gagilk73.
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