Former NFL Offensive Tackle Joe Barksdale Reveals Autism Diagnosis, Yearns For ‘Patience and Understanding’

by Patrick Norton

Joe Barksdale hasn’t set foot on the gridiron since becoming a free agent following the 2018 NFL season. His eight-year career is a success story as a third-round pick for the Oakland Raiders in 2011. But for Barksdale, a lack of confidence and comfort plagued the lineman’s career.

In a quest to find proper answers and seek treatment for odd personality quirks, the 34-year-old turned to psychiatry. Over time, as conversations developed, one diagnosis caught the lineman by surprise: autism.

It’s not uncommon for adults to live with autism. The CDC estimates approximately 5.4 million adults live with the disorder. However, in Barksdale’s case, the diagnosis – while not a complete shock – brings comfort and peace of mind.

In an interview with TODAY, Barksdale and his wife, Brionna, shared the intimate secrets of the diagnosis and how they’re moving on comfortably four years later.

When asked about behaviors of Barksdale’s either person noticed, Brionna mentions, “The fidgeting. When we go to church, I think that’s the first place I noticed it because it was the first place I sat with him for an extended period of time and he would always have to be doing something during church. But he would also retain the message better than me.”

Barksdale’s spouse adds that it “makes sense in retrospect.”

What We Can Learn From Joe Barksdale’s Experiences

Autism is a spectrum. It is wide-ranging. Your neighbor, your sibling or a peer might possess the disorder without your knowledge. Barksdale’s personal journey reminds us of the troubles we face in every day society and the unknowns our our minds seem unable to confront.

When asked what he’d like to share about embarking on life’s gifts with autism, Barksdale’s response is quick, yet profound. The lineman simply states, “I would say having patience and understanding that this person may not think like you and that’s OK. I would encourage others to seek out a diagnosis. The worst case scenario is it’s a waste of time. The best case scenario is that you learn something new about yourself.”