For many Florida fans, the conversation about the most dynamic athlete they’ve ever seen starts and ends with Percy Harvin.

Harvin was a huge part of Florida’s two title teams, but during his college days and into his NFL career, he was plagued by migraines and volatile outbursts at teammates and coaches.

On Thursday, Sports Illustrated’s Michael McKnight published a revealing interview with Harvin, who is now assisting the Gators under new head coach Dan Mullen. Harvin described the misery his lifelong migraines have caused him:

“Take a hammer and beat it on the side of your head nonstop,” he says of the pain. “If you’re trying to relax, if someone’s trying to talk to you, that hammer is still going off. You’re trying to eat, still going off.” That pounding is linked, he says, to an anxiety disorder that has gripped him since he was a kid, which he didn’t even know he had until he broke in with the Vikings and started making regular visits to the Mayo Clinic. Kept confidential by the NFL’s medical protocols, and by his own protocols of manhood, the ailment caused Harvin to play most of his 79 NFL games on little or no sleep.

As for the anxiety, he described how utterly paralyzing the worst of his episodes were:

“The best way I can describe it is that I felt ‘out of body,’” he says of a typical episode. “My heart would be going, I’d be sweating, I felt like everybody in the room was looking at me. My speech was slurring. I didn’t wanna eat. I was gasping for air. You’re so worked up that it’s hard to spit words out.”

The whole profile of the former Florida star is well worth a read, and can be found here. Harvin is embracing his new role as a mentor to the Gators, and it’s great to see him doing so well in his post-football life.