In his new book, The Bachelor star Colton Underwood revealed that he questioned his sexuality through his teen years, after relentless bullying from teammates.
“There are a lot of stories and experiences that will help people understand the choices I’ve made,” he told People magazine. “And I’m done hiding who I really am.”
As Underwood explains in the book, The First Time, he was the captain of the football team growing up in Washington, Ill. He would eventually be signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2014 before being on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.
But, being captain of his team didn’t keep Underwood from rumors that he was gay — which ultimately led to deep soul-searching when no one was looking.
“It was one of those things where you hear something so often, you start believing it,” he said. “I thought, maybe I am gay. The captain of the football team should be having sex and drinking, right? But I wasn’t.”
Underwood, who made headlines last year when he went public about being a virgin during his stint on The Bachelorette, before he was tapped to star in The Bachelor's following season, remembers searching online “Am I gay?” as far back as Elementary School.
“I didn’t know who I was,” he told People. “I come from an athletic family, so it was always, ‘Move on, you’re good.’ So that threw me off. In high school, when I was struggling with my sexuality, I’m not going to talk to my parents about it. So I internalized it.”
The 28-year-old reality star, who credits his Christian faith as the reason why he remained abstinent, eventually found his first serious relationship with Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. He decided to sign on to The Bachelorette on a whim after they broke up, a decision he says paved the way for him to let go of the anxiety he grappled with for so long.
“Even while my season was airing, I battled the gay [rumors],” he explained. “They’d say, ‘He’s gay, he’s hiding it.’ No. But I’ve been there, done that now.”
Last week, Underwood revealed that he contracted COVID-19 and is currently recovering. He is still with Cassie Randolph, his Bachelor pick, who is reportedly nursing him back to recovery.
The First Time is available on March 31.