This post was written by Jason Duaine Hahn and originally appeared on People.com.
Justin Verlander — who married his supermodel wife, Kate Upton, last year — is crediting the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model with saving his life and career.
Justin, the star pitcher of the Houston Astros, opened up to Bleacher Report about his relationship with Kate, and how she helped to guide him through his public and private struggles as an athlete.
“She was instrumental in me not… like, jumping off a bridge,” Justin, 35, said of Kate. “I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own s–––.”
In 2014, two years after Kate and Justin began dating, Justin was experiencing a major slump due to a shoulder injury which seemed to put career was in jeopardy. As a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Justin was booed by fans, and commenters on social media tried to blame Justin's relationship with Kate for his decline on the mound, Bleacher Report notes.
When a coach pulled him from the first inning of a game that August and asked him to get an MRI, Justin thought “the end” of his career had come, and he wept as he walked back to the clubhouse.
A post shared by Kate Upton (@kateupton) on Mar 18, 2018 at 10:36am PDT
“I don’t like to talk to people about being hurt,” Justin said. “As athletes, you’re not supposed to… But [Kate] was someone I could talk to. I mean, basically a therapist. Somebody I could trust with… worries about my career. Worries about, Can I make it? Worries about what I’m going through to get back.”
Through this difficult time, Kate, 26, remained Justin's rock. She understood better than most people what came with being at the center of the public eye and the target of critics.
“She obviously had dealt with more than me in her life,” said Verlander. “I mean, being a woman? Being in that industry? Being that famous? That was a level I hadn’t dealt with.”
With Kate's help, Justin entered physical rehab and learned to adjust his playing style for his aging body.
“It was so emotional,” Kate told Bleacher Report. “He was in so much pain, and he was just trying to find the best path back.”
Justin returned to form in a few seasons time, and when he was eventually traded from the Tigers to the Astros during the 2017 season, he was instrumental in leading the team to their first MLB championship just months later.
“Who knows, if I’m even here if it wasn’t for her?” Justin told the publication.
After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series in November, Justin flew with Kate to Italy, where they married in a lavish ceremony.
“Married life’s been great. I married my best friend, and we do everything we can to spend as much time together as possible,” Justin told PEOPLE in March. “Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a lovely first year of marriage.”
In July, the happy couple announced they are expecting their first child together.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.