Former NFL player publicly comes out as gay

FOXBORO - JULY 28: Guard Ryan O'Callaghan #68 of the New England Patriots works out during the first summer training camp practice on July 28, 2006 at Gillete Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

A retired NFL player has publicly confirmed that he is gay.

Ryan O’Callaghan was drafted to the New England Patriots in 2006, and has also played for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The player, who is now retired from professional football, opened up about his sexuality in an interview with Outsports.

O’Callaghan explained that he had tried to come out once before, in 2014, when he publicly thanked his boyfriend while receiving an award.

However, the news went pretty much unnoticed, so he took the leap again in an interview this week.

He explained to Outsports of being in the closet: “I used football as a cover for my life. Football was the most masculine thing I could do, so I decided to dedicate myself to football.

“No one is going to assume the big football player is gay. It’s why a football team is such a good place to hide.”

The player added that his sexuality weighed on him while he was in the closet.

He said: “Being gay wasn’t just a small detail in my life, it consumed it. It’s all I would think about. But now that I have come out it rarely crosses my mind.

“I’d go about my daily life in football, but thinking about hiding it and hoping no one finds out and being ready for any situation was exhausting.”

O’Callaghan added: “My plan was to end my life after football. I thought that would be it, and I could never be an out gay man.

“I’m just glad there were people who pushed me in the right direction, and I could get help.

“I went and start talking to someone, and she said, why don’t you find out? I drove out to California and told my family [I was gay]. All the people I was most concerned about were fine, it was so much easier than I ever imagined.”

There has only been one openly gay player in NFL history – St Louis Rams player Michael Sam.

Sam did not have a glittering career and was later cut from the team amid immense media scrutiny.

He then had brief spells with the Dallas Cowboys and Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, but eventually crashed out of the sport citing mental health issues.

O’Callaghan is hoping that his own openness will convince others that they can come out in the sport.

He said:  “I think teams are ready. Guys just have to understand, he’s gay, but that doesn’t mean he wants to date you, he just wants to be your teammate. It’s not a big deal. It’s really not.

“I hope that me coming out will lead to someone else much higher profile coming out. Coming out’s not the end of the world… it will be okay. I’m having a great time, I love life now.”