John M. Becker

First Active College Football Player Comes Out

Filed By John M. Becker | January 28, 2014 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: college football, coming out, Conner Mertens, Oregon, welcome out, Willamette University

conner-mertens.jpgCollege football kicker Conner Mertens came out as bisexual to his teammates at Willamette University in Oregon last night, Cyd Zeigler reports at Outsports, becoming the first active college football player in the U.S. to come out publicly.

He did it for personal reasons, writes Zeigler, but also in the hope of inspiring fellow LGBT athletes to follow in his footsteps:

"For me growing up, I always felt the biggest thing that caused my depression was the feeling of being alone," Mertens said. "I hate the stereotypes that go along with liking the same sex. You don't have to follow the stereotype to be this way. I made the decision that if I could help anyone else avoid feeling the way I felt, I would."

The people he most wanted to reach are the residents of his hometown of Kennewick, Wash. The Tri-Cities is a conservative area in Southeast Washington that Mertens said isn't the most LGBT-friendly place in the world... Despite being a successful football player, he feared losing his friends and teammates if he talked about his homosexual tendencies.

"I had a smile on my face all the time as a kid, but I was dying on the inside. In my hometown, you have to fit in or you'll be exiled. If somebody had come out that I looked up to in the town, I would have been a lot happier.

Mertens doesn't want any other youth in his hometown to ever feel the way he did, so he took matters into his own hands."

Conner came out to the coaching staff and leaders on the team, then to the rest of the team at a meeting last night. He says the response from his teammates has been overwhelmingly positive. "It's been incredible," he said. "I'm speechless."

Congratulations on taking this important step, Conner, and welcome to the out and proud LGBT family!

Read the rest of Zeigler's extensive report here.

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