Willamette Football Player First to Come Out as Bisexual [POLL/VIDEO]
If a teammate of yours were to come out of the closet while still an active player – how would you react?
You’d never know unless you were in that situation.
That was the conflict Conner Mertens, a 19 year old redshirt freshman kicker from Willamette University had up until recently.
How to tell his team, and eventually his family that he’s bisexual.
This posed a special “problem” if you will – in that he’s become the first to come out in college football as bisexual.
How would his teammates treat him – his coaches – and eventually his family, all raced through his mind.
But most of all was the feeling he had of being true to himself.
After years of feeling somewhat alone in the world, Conner Mertens, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman kicker for Willamette (Ore.) University football team, finally has found some peace.
Last week, the student-athlete told his coach, Glen Fowles, that he is bisexual, that he has a boyfriend — and on Monday he announced it to the rest of the world in the name of helping and inspiring other LGBT athletes, students, and people like him.
On Monday, Mertens was in the Willamette University men’s locker room with his teammates and coaches, who had gathered to discuss his announcement. Mertens typed out a letter and handed out copies for everyone to read. Wade Davis, a former NFL player, also was present to talk with the team. The team’s reaction was positive.
Jack Nelson, a junior inside linebacker for Willamette, as well as Mertens’ teammate, said it wasn’t a big deal to the team, saying: “We care about Conner as an individual, and that’s just a part of him,” Nelson said. “We’re going to support him in that fashion, but we’re also we care about him as a player.
“I know that he’s a really good kicker and can be a huge part of this team. It wasn’t a big deal and we’re glad that he felt comfortable; we’re proud of our school and our team.”
According to outsports.com, no college football player in the U.S. at any level has come out publicly while still playing, until Mertens. Head coach Fowles said he was initially a bit nervous about how the news would go over with the team, but he’s now proud of how they reacted.
“The way the team responded made me believe it would be OK,” Fowles said. “What Conner did was brave and courageous, and I’m proud of our football team for supporting Conner.”
Mertens tore his ACL last year and was not able to play with the football team for several months but is eager to begin practicing for the 2014 season. He is currently in a long-distance relationship but gets to see his boyfriend quite often. Mertens plans to use the love and support from his family, friends, teammates and coaches to move forward with his mission.
“I’m just hoping to let people know you can still be an athlete and you can still be one of the guys — even if you’re into guys.”
Could you readily accept a teammate openly admitting he is gay or bi – or would you prefer them not publicizing it?
No one should ever have to deny to themselves who they are – and by extension, if it means that much to them – admit it to the ones closest to them.
Which in this case would be one’s teammates.
I give Mertens kudos – he’s one brave dude.
But more so his coach and teammates for realizing he’s still a brother teammate - no matter his sexual preference!