NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Anthony Fasano never understood the issues surrounding addiction.
The Titans tight end thought it was an excuse, or a weakness, and he wasn't really interested in digging deeper.
Then a family member was impacted by addiction, and it changed his life forever. When his NFL career is over, Fasano plans to devote his time changing the lives of others struggling with addictive disorders and related issues.
Even while he's still playing, in fact, Fasano is making an impact.
Fasano opened an addiction treatment center in Delray Beach, Florida, in December 2015 to provide a state of the art clinical and 12-step immersion services for patients so they can rediscover themselves, learn to build healthy relationships, and embrace recovery and live a life free from addiction.
"It is fittingly called Next Chapter,'' said Fasano, the founder. "One for the next chapter in our patients' lives to turn the page, but I do see this as a career after football for me. Whenever that time comes, I'll transition pretty quickly."
It's been a heck of a career for Fasano, who is in his 11th NFL season. A second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft, Fasano has played in 152 games while with the Cowboys (2006-07), Dolphins (2008-12), Chiefs (2013-14) and Titans (2015-present). He has 280 catches for 3,089 yards and 33 touchdowns while also earning a reputation as being one of the league's better blocking tight ends.
Fasano, 32, majored in marketing at Notre Dame, and over the years took business classes through the NFL.
When a family member dealt with substance abuse issues, however, it opened his eyes, and inspired him to become involved. Fasano said the family member struggled with drug addiction, and the lingering temptations after initially getting treatment. It wasn't until the family member started working at a treatment center in Florida before he crossed the hurdles necessary to change.
The experience impacted Fasano in ways he never would have imagined.
"It became of interest to me,'' Fasano said. "Honestly, I regretfully say, I was very ignorant to addiction. I couldn't really understand it. … But until it happens to your own family, it opens up your eyes to the disease. It convinced me it is a disease and it doesn't discriminate, it affects everybody. And I think everybody, if they are old enough, can know of a situation where addiction affected their life."
Fasano jumped head-first this offseason into Next Chapter Addiction Treatment, a treatment and trauma program for males, which is located roughly 45 miles from where the Titans will face the Dolphins on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.
He worked in the building in Delray Beach three days a week during the offseason, consulting on the direction of the program, making business decisions, and working on the growth, financing and hiring. The facility treats inpatients and outpatients. The center treats abuse disorders, behavioral additions, and co-occurring psychological disorders related to post-traumatic experience, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The center helps patients deal with drug and alcohol addiction, trauma, sex addiction, internet addition, gambling and work addiction. Staff members aim to help patients heal, and restore the relationships around them.
"They all kind of fall under the umbrella and a lot of times the clinicians and therapist that treat them, they all kind of have a common thread, no matter what the vice and addiction is,'' Fasano said. "The root of that problem is pretty much the same, so they are trained in all of that stuff."
Pat Capra, director of the Anthony Fasano Foundation, said the tight end has always been passionate about helping others. A second Next Chapter facility is in the works.
Fasano has a golf outing each year that raises money for autistic children in New Jersey, and he has a bocce tournament that raises money for the military, and supports homeless veterans. He established his foundation in 2008 to serve underprivileged youth and military families in New Jersey.
"When this opportunity presented itself and he learned more about addiction,'' Capra said of Fasano, "it was important to him. If you look at the numbers nationwide, it's staggering. In communities all over the country, from the suburbs on down, it is everywhere, even in his hometown of Verona (New Jersey). So the idea of being able to help people and also have a business opportunity, I think it was a perfect combination of what he can do post career.
"(Anthony) has never identified himself as just a football player. Sometimes I think players can have trouble finding successful post-careers because their identity is so much tied to being a football player. So each offseason I think he tries to add skills and involve himself in things that will benefit him post-career, and really the next chapter of his life.
"For him, if he is going to start something like this, which is a pretty sensitive subject and he has seen how addiction can affect people close to him, he wants to make sure they're doing the best for the patients that they are treating and making sure they are seeing results," Capra continued. "So obviously the only way he can do that is making sure he rolls up his sleeves and shows his face and listens and learns as much as he can and lends as much support as he can, and sometimes him being there physically is a big part of that."
Fasano got to know a lot of the patients during the course of the offseason, and he plans to immerse himself in the venture when the season ends.
In the locker room after a practice, Fasano talked in great detail about the levels of care at the facility (nextchapteraddiction.com).
Patients advance to different stages in the program, and transition as they make progress. Some of the levels are intense, when patients have limited freedom and a regimented schedule. The programs could range from 45 to 60 days, to even a 90-day program.
In the twilight of his NFL career, Fasano admits he was hoping to find something that would pull him in a positive direction after football. His next chapter will be involved with Next Chapter.
What makes Fasano happy is seeing a patient overcome the struggles.
It's like scoring a touchdown. Or even better.
"I see this as a win-win,'' Fasano said. "It gives me purpose after football, but also it keeps in the lines some of my foundation work and helping people. It really feels good when you get testimonials from family members, and the patients themselves, the experience they had.
"And then you see them become productive people in society afterward, where before they were just a drain. So it is pretty cool."
Titans Online looks at the career of new Titans TE Anthony Fasano, a nine-year veteran who has spent time with the Cowboys, Dolphins and Chiefs. (AP Photos)