HENDERSON, Nev. -- A week before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, Maxx Crosby's world opened up.
That's when the Las Vegas Raiders defensive end began a month-long stay in rehab for alcoholism and is now nearing an 18-month milestone of being sober, on the cusp of the 2021 NFL season. In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN on Friday, Crosby detailed his fight for sobriety as he enters his third NFL season.
"It got to a point after my rookie year my life became unmanageable," Crosby said. "Alcohol, partying and all that s--- became too much of a distraction in my life. It became just overwhelming. I've always had issues with drinking and partying throughout high school and college. I've been able to slip by and get by, but it became too much for me and it's always been that one crutch.
"Alcoholism runs in my family and I'm an alcoholic. So, for me, I knew it was something that was always a crutch. I always knew I had a problem. I knew I couldn't just drink like everybody else. I got ahead of it. My first year of sobriety is always the hardest and that was last year. I had a lot of ups and downs. Mentally it was really tough for me. But going in, I'm almost a year-and-a-half sober now and life is great. I'm really enjoying every single day. I'm enjoying the work."
Crosby, who turned 24 on Aug. 22, was a Day 3 draft pick of the Raiders in 2019 out of Eastern Michigan, the No. 106 overall selection in the fourth round. He racked up 10 sacks as a rookie.
But it was in that offseason when Crosby decided he needed help.
"It was March 11 , the day I got sober," he said. "I was living in Hollywood. Strolled out there and checked into rehab. ... And the whole world was put on shut down. I was there for a month and then I was able to just get myself right. And then after rehab, for that month I went to a sober living [facility] and I was staying out in Venice Beach all the way until training camp. I was literally in treatment like for the whole offseason.
"It was a big struggle but looking back on my journey, I know five years, 10 years down the road, I'll look back and be like, that was the biggest offseason of my life even though I was just trying to get my s--- together and just trying to stay above water. I know if I can make it through that s--- and get sober, I can do anything. It was special and I met some awesome people along the way."
Raiders owner Mark Davis said he was happy for Crosby.
"I think it's fantastic," Davis said. "Everybody has their demons. Obviously, he recognized he had a problem and he went out and fixed it. Recognizing it and wanting to fix it is the No. 1 way to get the help you need. And he did it."
Raiders coach Jon Gruden agreed.
"Maxx is an amazing man," Gruden told ESPN. "He realized he had a problem and he isolated himself and conquered it. He has incredible mental toughness and a desire to be great. He's a great inspiration for people to see what you can do if you're committed to following through."'
Crosby said teammate Darren Waller, a Pro Bowl tight end, has also been open about his battle with addiction and they have become close friends.
"Here's a guy that was deep," Crosby said of Waller, "deep as hell and almost lost his life and he was able to come back and is now one of the best players in the league. For me, seeing a guy like that, that gave me hope. When I went off to rehab, I was terrified. I didn't know if I was able to do it. I couldn't imagine my life being sober. But today, the blessings that have come my way from being sober and doing the work and trusting in the people around me have been incredible.
"I'm living my real purpose and helping people out. ... The whole basis of AA is literally you can't do it alone. AA is a big family."
Crosby followed up his rookie breakout season with seven sacks last year and says after a year-plus of being sober, and re-dedicating himself to his health and fitness, he is primed for a good season.
"This offseason has been incredible," he said. "I've never been in this good a shape in my life. I've never been this dedicated. I've always been a hard worker as far as work ethic. ... I've taken it to a whole different level.
"I love being able to talk about it and share my story with other people and try to help other people out there going through what I've gone through."