By Jase Peeples
Originally published on Advocate.com May 08 2013 6:13 PM ET
In the wake of Jason Collins’s historic announcement that he is a gay professional athlete, former college football star Kevin Grayson is also kicking down the closet door and has a message for any young player who may be struggling with their own sexuality.
“Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t be the athlete you want to be. Doesn’t mean you can’t be a star. Doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and go just as hard as anybody else, if not harder,” Grayson said in an interview with WTVR in Richmond, Va.
Grayson speaks from experience. During his career, he achieved a long list of accolades. Here's how OutSports described his career:
Grayson was a decorated high school player and helped Richmond win its college division's football national title in 2008. With the Spiders, he is second all-time among receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. In 2011, he tore a ligament in his knee and was not drafted by an NFL team. In 2012, he played professionally in Italy with the Parma Panthers. He helped his team win the Italian Football League and was named MVP.
However, Grayson told WTVR he never considered coming out before because he didn’t want to become a distraction for his teammates and preferred to keep his focus on his sport. “If you are an athlete, you want to be an athlete. You want to be known for what you’ve done on the basketball court, football field, tennis court, whatever. You don’t want to be that person who it’s always ‘the “gay” athlete,’” explains Grayson. “You don’t want to be the focus in that way. Not to say that it’s a negative, but when you have people just asking questions about your sexuality and how teammates are taking it, it takes away from the importance of the preseason.”
However, today Grayson feels differently and hopes his coming-out will make more people realize an athlete’s sexuality has no impact on his ability to play. “Why can’t I be an athlete? Why can’t I be a star player?” asks Grayson. “Why can’t I be the guy making plays that helps my team win, and still on the flip side, be a gay male?”
Grayson sounds like he's getting good feedback about his announcement. "Thanks for all the love and support, truly appreciate it, words cant express the feeling," he wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
Watch Grayson’s full interview with CBS 6 WTVR below.
Correction: An earlier version of this article failed to link to OutSports as the source for the background on Grayson's career. We apologize for the oversight.