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Penn State kicker Joey Julius opens up about struggles with binge eating disorder

(Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

Penn State kicker Joey Julius first gained notice for his unusual size and then for using that size to his advantage with some crunching hits on opposing kick returners. Now the redshirt sophomore, listed at 5 feet 10 inches and 258 pounds, is opening up about his struggles with a condition closely related to his size: binge eating disorder.

In a lengthy message recently posted to Facebook, Julius said that he had “decided to go public” about a stint at a St. Louis facility which treats eating disorders, one that took place from May 9 to July 26 and which caused him to miss practices with the Nittany Lions. “Due to my increase in not only weight but also depression and anxiety my team physicians started to notice not only a change in my overall happiness but also my performance as a normal human being,” he wrote.

“Although I showed signs of [bulimia] through stints of purging from extreme anxiety placed on myself I am certain that binge eating disorder is my true diagnosis,” Julius wrote. Head Coach James Franklin and other Penn State staffers “noticed that I was not myself and that I needed extensive care,” Julius continued.

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Julius earned the place-kicking job last season and immediately became a fan favorite at Beaver Stadium, but his performance worsened as the season went on. He was eventually replaced by then-redshirt sophomore Tyler Davis, who continues to handle field goals while Julius boots the kickoffs.

It is in that role that Julius gained national attention this season for a pair of hits, on Kent State’s Zaquon Tyson and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis. In a game Saturday, Minnesota’s Jaylen Waters seemed to single out Julius for punishment, wrestling the kicker to the ground on one play and delivering a huge hit on another, for which the Gopher was ejected. Video of the four incidents is below:

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, binge eating disorder affects 3.5 percent of women, 2 percent of men and up to 1.6 percent of adolescents of either gender. It is “characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating,” the NEDA states, adding, “Binge eating disorder is a severe, life-threatening and treatable eating disorder.”

“We are very proud of Joe and fully support him as he deals with these personal matters,” Franklin said in a statement (via the Daily Collegian). “However, as is our policy, we do not discuss the medical affairs of our student-athletes. We ask for others to be supportive and respectful, as well!”

In his Facebook post, Julius wrote, “If anyone, and I mean anyone, guy or girl, is struggling with the the same or anything similar, please message me, as I will be in immediate contact to help in any way I can to provide information or insight on my struggles and I would love to help.”

(H/T Yahoo Sports)