These 7 Players Set A Record For College Football And A New Standard For LGBTQ Athletes

“This could go either really bad or could go really good."

With the college football season now in full swing, there's a lot more to celebrate than the upcoming games this year. It's time to look at how some players are making an impact both on and off the field. 

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Outsports recently reported that there are currently seven football players who openly identify as either gay or bisexual. While a player's sexuality might have not been accepted decades ago, these players, their teammates, and coaches are rewriting history to create a more accepting environment for everyone.  

1. My-King Johnson

My-King Johnson wasn't afraid to tell everyone who he was at 12. 

Johnson, a defensive lineman for the University of Arizona, made history last year when he became one of the first NCAA Division I players to come out as gay. But what was new for others wasn't for him since he had come out to people at only 12 years old. 

When the news first came out after Johnson committed to playing for the University of Arizona, Johnson told Pac-12 Networks that putting himself out there made him feel "so open." 

"It felt like everybody knew everything about me and I was just like, 'Wow,' " he said. 

Looking ahead to what's in store for future LGBTQ college football players as they attend different schools, Johnson hopes that news of their sexual identity will no longer be a big deal to anyone. 

"It's going to be amazing one day where it's not a shock," he said. 

2. Scott Frantz

When Scott Frantz came out to his teammates, he told ESPN he had "never felt so loved and so accepted" in his life. 

The Kansas State University offensive lineman decided to come out to his peers during a team-building exercise in 2015 when his coach, Bill Snyder, invited a motivational speaker to inspire the players to talk about things they had never discussed with others before. 

For Frantz, it was a chance to talk about being gay, something he knew was true about himself in fifth grade, but took until his junior year of high school to come to terms with. 

"So the very first time I said those words were in front of, you know, 110, 120 football guys," he said. "So you can imagine how scared I was, how nervous I was. ... This could go either really bad or could go really good. And thankfully, my teammates embraced me with open arms, and it was great."

3. Jake Bain

Jake Bain wants to shine a light on the LGBTQ community, but don't call him an activist. 

In an interview with Outsports in August, the Indiana State University's newest cornerback and kick returner said that although people say he's an LGBTQ activist, he sees himself more as "someone who is willing to be themselves and show everyone it's OK to be yourself." 

"I try and not put the spotlight on me but instead on the LGBT community as a whole," Bain said. "There's a bunch of people like me, but they're just not comfortable being out."

Bain came out last December and since then, he's heard from other LGBTQ athletes who are either in or out of the closet that have been inspired by the story of him and his boyfriend, Hunter Sigmund, dancing at their senior prom, a story that went viral.

But when it comes to his budding college football career, Bain is proud about being out and open with his teammates, and essentially the world.

"I'm really glad I decided to come out the way I did before going to college," he said. It's definitely helped me to be myself from the start ... I'm not in the closet anymore."

4. Bradley Kim

After Bradley Kim came out, his teammates gave him a standing ovation.

"They tell me they appreciate the fact that I felt confident enough, and they meant enough, for me to tell them," he said to Outsports in July.

It was a long time coming for Kim, who is currently a sophomore defensive back for the Air Force's football team. When he came out to his coach, teammates, and family after experiencing "internal torment" as a gay athlete in high school, Kim shared his story on Instagram to discuss his newfound acceptance of who he is. 

"I hope that I can serve as an example to those who are allowing their fear of acceptance to change who they are," he said in the post. "I almost gave up my dream of playing division 1 football for fear of not being accepted by everyone, but today I am happy to say that I am a cadet at the Air Force Academy playing the sport I love with amazing people standing behind me and supporting me. "

5. Xavier Colvin

Growing up, Xavier Colvin always had a vision of what a "real man" was supposed to look like and behave like, and who they love. At the time, being gay didn't fit into that image.

But years later, the junior linebacker for Butler University would shed all of those ideals to embrace his true identity. A year ago, he stood in front of his coach and teammates to tell them he was gay.

"A lot of times when it comes to gay men in sports we feel like people think we will be 'less-than' because of our personal life," he said to Outsports. "I got so caught up trying to please others that I fell into a path of always trying to help others and not myself. Finally, I became courageous enough to be myself."

After coming out, Colvin received nothing but love and support from his team.

"The freshmen who didn't know me came and shook my hand," he said. "And they all said, 'we've got your back.' They told me how proud they were of me. Not even a single negative reaction. It was all positive."

As Colvin gears up for another year of college football, he's going to keep pushing forward and keep growing his own idea of what it means to be a "real man."

"What I've come to learn from my 105 teammates and 15 coaches is that no one cares, and it's not as big of a deal as it used to be," he said. "People care more about you as a person and your mental health. It took me a while to learn that."

6. Jake Van Ittersum

Like Colvin, Jake Van Ittersum grew up with the same perceived images of what a football player is "supposed to be." 

In a post for Outsports in August, Van Ittersum wrote about his experience with recently coming to terms with the fact that he's bisexual based on what he grew up believing.

"Anything that deviates from the perceived norm wouldn't seem to be accepted," he said. "I tried so hard while I was young to stay within what was considered normal. It wasn't until late into college that I realized that there is no such thing as the norm. Everyone has their own differences. For me, my biggest difference was being bisexual."

These days, Van Ittersum is a senior offensive lineman at Northwood University. Last year, he decided to come out via Twitter. There were no initial reactions to his tweet until a few friends and teammates came up to him to tell him how much they supported him. 

The next day, one of his coaches, Leonard Haynes, asked to see him in his office. Van Ittersum braced himself for what was going to happen, until he was caught off guard by a question of whether or not someone else had tweeted as a joke. 

"I thought it was too heartfelt of a tweet to be seen as a joke, but I reassured him that it was no joke," he said. "He told me he was happy for me and that if I had any problems that I could come to him and we would work it out. I'm lucky to be a part of such a supporting team."

As Van Ittersum completes his final year as a college football player, he hopes to use his stance as an "openly bisexual athlete" to inspire other LGBTQ athletes to be proud of who they are.

"People should be allowed to be open with themselves without the thought of ridicule or harassment," he said. "Football is an especially hard sport to do so, but times are changing for the better."

7. Wyatt Pertuset

Wyatt Pertuset always thought he'd wait until college to come out as gay. 

As a football player who grew up in a small Ohio town, he knew many people weren't accepting of the LGBTQ community as he sat through locker room talk that tried to diminish gay people by talking about how gross and wrong they believed they were. 

But when Pertuset was a junior in high school, he came out to five people, one of which accidentally outed him out to another person. Once everyone at his school found out, Pertuset ended up being surprised by their reactions.

"The people at my school quickly realized that, with one of the captains of the football team being gay, it really doesn't define you," he said in a post for Outsports. "It's simply a part of who you are. My teammates took it really well and didn't treat me the slightest bit differently."

Pertuset had to do it all again when he became a wide receiver and punter at Capital University. Despite being nervous and tempted to go back in the closet for the next four years, he was met with positivity from his team.  

"They treated me like family," he said. "I'm so thankful for my teammates at Capital because just by creating that family-type bond, I am able to excel on and off the field during my college career.

After his experience coming out in both high school and college, Pertuset encourages those who haven't to take a leap of faith.

"If you are in the closet and also an athlete and you're reading this, I want you to know that coming out is not as scary as you make it out to be," he said. "It is the most relieving experience you'll ever come to term[s] with."

Cover image: Melinda Nagy / Shutterstock.com

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