From an outsider’s perspective, Bryce “Simba” Gaudi was sitting on top of the world at 17. He graduated from Deerfield Beach High School a semester early, accepted a scholarship to Georgia Tech as one of the best football recruits in the country, and is a week away from his new chapter in Atlanta.
Things seem to be going well for Gowdy, but as the saying goes, things don’t always seem that way. In reality, Gaudi was struggling. He’s struggling with his impending milestone — one he’s worked his entire life on — and his mother and two younger brothers in South Florida are still trying to make it happen.
Gowdy has always had a goal while his family slept in the car for several nights trying to make ends meet.
Sadly, this stress and reality reached a tipping point on December 30, 2019, when Gowdy was killed by a train in South Florida. The next day, Gaudí’s death was ruled a suicide.
Gowdy’s life story — as brother, son, role model, and elite sports student — is the subject of ESPN’s new documentary, “Long Live Seven: The Story of Bryce “Simba” Gowdy, now live on Undefeated on ESPN+.
While Gowdy’s story is a tragedy, the documentary’s interviews, intimate footage, and overall tone all do justice to the goal of a message that hopefully helps save lives.
Gowdy’s mother Shibbon Mitchell explained in the documentary: “What we’re going through can help a lot of people, it’s really beautiful, but it’s also heartbreaking at the same time.”
From tragedy to purpose
Shibbon Mitchell lost her eldest son. Just days before Gaudí stepped onto the Georgia Tech campus as college athletes, her two other sons lost their older brothers and role models. Bryce’s death also came at a time when the Gaudí family was really struggling, and when the heartbreak and pain lingered, Mitchell turned the tragedy into a meaningful story.
Mitchell founded the Bryce Gaudi Foundation shortly after his son’s death with a mission to share Bryce’s story and advocate for behavioral and mental health awareness in the Black community.
She doesn’t want the local public mental health service to abandon others when they need it most, something she described shortly before Gowdy’s death.
Mitchell tells her son’s story and relives those memories in hopes of helping all those in need. That’s one reason Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott plays the narrator in the documentary: “I just wanted to be able to help a kid who was going through what Bryce was going through and help save life.”
Athletes help break down mental health stigma
The mental health stigma has always existed, especially in the world of sports. We see athletes at all levels as athletes, but at the end of the day, they struggle just like everyone else.
Thankfully, the stigma surrounding mental health is dissipating quickly these days, as athletes at all levels talk about what they’re going through and what they’re thinking.
Take Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown, for example, who recently revealed that he had suicidal thoughts in 2020. Brown is one of the NFL’s most impressive young talents, but the pressure is on. He turned to someone, NFL wide receiver Elijah Moore, to get through a tough time in his life.
While Gowdy’s story is heartbreaking, it serves an extremely important purpose: to normalize conversations about mental health, especially in the black community, and ultimately help save lives.
Long Live Seven: The Story of Bryce “Simba” Gaudi is part of ESPN’s Black History Always platform and Undefeated, which launched in January 2021 to celebrate the intersection of sports, race and culture throughout the year, to further explore the original story.