North America still remains short on having openly gay athletes in the four major sports, but one former NFL player has now come out as gay.
Ryan O’Callaghan, who played two seasons in New England and two seasons in Kansas City after being drafted by the Patriots in 2006, announced on a story on Outsports.com that he is gay.
“Ryan O’Callaghan’s plan was always to play football then, when his career was over, kill himself,” Cyd Zeigler wrote.
However, “thanks to a small group of people within the Chiefs organization he ultimately found the will to live as the real Ryan O’Callaghan.”
O’Callaghan recounts his story growing up in Redding, Calif., where living openly as a gay man was not possible. So he “hid” behind football for as long as he could. And at 6-foot-6, 345 pounds, he was able to carve out an NFL career.
Now 33 years old, O’Callaghan played in 26 games for the Patriots, starting seven of them, at the tackle position. He missed the 2008 season due to injury but came back to play two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Prior to being drafted in the fifth round by Bill Belichick, O’Callaghan played at Cal, where he blocked for Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch.
O’Callaghan told Zeigler that he never heard a gay slur uttered during his time in the NFL, but constant talk about women in the locker room made life difficult.
“There is so much talk about women in the locker room, even in the NFL,” he said. “I’d just turn around and ignore it. I figured I couldn’t even talk about it well, like they would see through me if I did.”
After his career was cut short due to injury, O’Callaghan began using painkillers and stopped talking to friends and family as he prepared to commit suicide. However, after talking to a psychologist employed by the Chiefs, his plan was altered.
When he came out to Scott Pioli — the former Patriots front office member who was the GM of the Chiefs at the time — the executive said he had counseled other gay football players before.
O’Callaghan actually came out publicly in 2014 at his induction into the Shasta County Sports Hall of Fame, but the Outsports story is sure to generate a significant level of attention.