New owners are on the way for the Washington Commanders, and former players like Chris Samuels are "excited" — especially about part-owner Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Speaking with PEOPLE at the Roll with the Punches Foundation's "It's Okay Knot To Be Okay" gala, Samuels says that he looks up to Johnson, the NBA legend and five-time champion.
"I'm excited about that one now. He's big time and he's such a role model," Samuels says of Johnson, who will be a part-owner behind principal owner Josh Harris, who also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils. "Everything he's accomplished in his career, and after playing, and he's just a great guy."
Samuels also offered a goodbye to Dan Snyder, the Commanders' former owner who agreed to sell the team after years of poor results on the field and off, including multiple lawsuits over gender discrimination and congressional inquiries.
"He grew up a fan of the team. He owned the team. I tell you what, he's a wise businessman too, because he made a whole lot of money," he says of Snyder. "But no, on a serious note, you've got to turn the page. I wish Dan the best. And I wish the new owners the best."
As for the Commanders winning a Super Bowl under new ownership, Samuels said: "I think they will eventually. I still think they're kind of in a rebuilding stage but they have a solid team and I wish them the best. Hopefully, it can happen fast but if it takes, you know, five years, it takes five years."
In light of the gala, which focused on mental health awareness and honored Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson for his work on the topic, Samuels also described what mental health personally means to him as a former NFL player.
"It's definitely important. I have so many teammates, they're struggling with mental health now. I'll be honest with you, when I retired, I went through depression for a while, you know, sitting at home pretty much drinking every day, blew up to 380 lbs., and kind of lost myself for several years," he says.
"So now, you know, I'm back, on point, I'm down to 280. I lost 100 lbs. I refocused, kind of rebranded myself, mentally — I wouldn't say mentally but physically, emotionally and spiritually — just kind of like being the best that I can be, becoming the best version of myself," he continues.
"Definitely a lot of athletes suffer from it when they lose the game and some, currently, while they're in the game, so it's definitely important, especially in the black community. A lot of times, you know, we're not raised to basically go to therapy, we don't think it's cool. But everybody needs to go to therapy, everybody needs to heal," he added.
Jackson and his mother, Felicia Jones, were honored with the Chairman's Award on-stage at the gala.
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