The following is reposted from The Gaily Grind.
Yet Another College Football Player Comes Out of Closet and Is Embraced by His Teammates
Just a week after 19-year-old Conner Mertens, a freshman kicker for Willamette (Ore.) University football team, came out of the closet, another college football player has shared his beautiful coming out story.
Scott Cooper has gone public with his coming out story, after finding true acceptance from his Augsburg College football team, which included him being asked by a coach to speak on National Coming Out Day and introducing his partner at Senior Day.
Cooper shared his story with OutSports:
Senior players are walked onto the field by persons who they feel have supported them and been there during the highs and lows of their athletic career. Auggie senior football players were escorted by parents, siblings, fiancés, grandparents and loved ones. The Augsburg University underclassmen cheered and clapped for each senior being introduced and the crowd applauded to acknowledge the efforts put in by these soon-to-be graduating players.
For me, it was no different. As they introduced "Senior linebacker Scott Cooper" and "his partner, Dan," I looked at him, smiled big, took a deep breath, and walked out onto the field with the person who had been there for me. We entered to applause from the crowd, hugs from coaches, and cheering and "Atta boy, Coop!" from the younger players. There were no boos from the crowd, no gasps from the cheerleaders, or weird looks from my teammates. We were accepted and loved just like every other group that walked on the field that day. This, is why I am extremely proud and happy to call myself an Auggie.
Acceptance of this nature is a relatively new thing to me. I grew up hearing from my church that being gay is bad, and that if you "struggle with those feelings" then you need to repent and repress them. Not exactly what a kid who is trying to pray away the gay likes to hear. I tried, and that "gay" stuck like glue.
I was just your normal kid who loved farm animals, sports and picking on my brother. No one had a suspicion that I really had crushes on boys. And I planned to keep it that way. Through my childhood and high school I tried to ignore those feelings, and just focus on the things kids should focus on. I played three sports in high school, sang in the choir, performed in some theater production, and then found myself going to a college for ministry. That's when life changed for me. I was so unhappy with who I had to pretend to be and what was being told to me. I remember the day clearly when my professor in the adolescent psychology class told us that "being gay is a choice." Excuse me? That was the day I knew I had to leave.
Being at Augsburg College was a completely different experience. Not only was I out totally by then, but I was myself. I loved football, and just needed to be on a team. I missed the competition, the camps and the camaraderie. Yes, I was gay and out, but I didn’t want to lead with that fact. I just wanted to be a college athlete, while also being accepted off the field for who I really was. My teammates could not have been any more supportive of me than they were and still are. I don't feel I was being a hero by being out and being honest about it with them; these guys are the true heroes.
In a sport were masculinity and aggressiveness is celebrated, most men don't think twice about calling another guy "fag" or "queer." I even said it in my high school closeted days. When guys figured out I was gay, those kinds of sayings started to become extinct. Any time I'd hear "Well, that's gay," I loudly reply back, "What the hell is wrong with being gay?" "Oh! Sorry, Coop!” Many guys hadn’t thought about what those words meant to someone like me. I saw maturity and growth in those guys. I was able to joke with them, talk about things with them they normally wouldn’t get to talk about, answer "weird" questions, and just really enjoy getting to be myself around a group of guys who were completely accepting and non-judgmental.