Conner Mertens Becomes First Active College Football Player To Come Out Of The Closet
Mark your calendars because Tuesday, January 28, 204 is going down in history. America finally has its very first openly-LGBT active college football player in Conner Mertens, who has broken the barrier by coming out of the closet today.
"I'm bisexual," Mertens told [Coach] Fowles. "I like dudes. I have a boyfriend. And next week, I'm going to tell the world."
Mertens didn't easily arrive at his decision to come out to his coach or team, let alone publicly. No college football player in the United States at any level has ever come out publicly while still playing. Some have come out to their team, many have come out to friends, but none have said publicly that they are LGBT.
While some will dismiss the story because he's a Div. III kicker, and others will pooh-pooh it because he's bisexual, no one has ever done what he's doing by telling his story. No college football player before him has stepped out into the public as an out man in hopes of inspiring youth to be themselves.
In a lot of ways, Mertens' situation -- redshirt freshman kicker -- make this story that much more powerful. His situation made the move as risky as it could be: For the players and coaches, he could easily be viewed as dispensable. Instead, they are embracing him.
"Coach didn't blink an eye," Mertens said of his revelation. "He talked about how they don't build football players at Willamette, they build men, and that he was proud that I could tell him this about myself."
Prior to coming out publicly this week, Mertens' coach gathered the 16 team leaders to give them a head start on the news. Their reaction, as Fowles describes it, was "a parade." Shortly after, many in the team sent Mertens kind-hearted texts, including these:
"It's been insanely incredible," Mertens said. "I'm speechless. That is the only word I can use to describe this. Even a lot of the guys on the football team I was most scared of are the ones who have been the most amazing."