Conner Mertens, a redshirt freshman who is a kicker for D-III team Willamette University, became the first ever college football player to come out whilst still an active player.
When Mertens first asked to talk to head coach Glen Fowles privately, the coach thought that Mertens wanted to transfer to a different university. Instead, the kicker told his coach that he was bisexual and was going to come out.
“I like dudes. I have a boyfriend. And next week,” Mertens told his coach last Monday, “I'm going to tell the world.” And that he did.
Thankfully, his team mates at Willamette were just as accepting as his coaches. One of them said “As long as you're willing to get on the field and in the weight room and in the film room and give 100 percent, it doesn't matter to us who are you. Conner's a Bearcat. Whether he's gay, bisexual or straight, he's one of us.”
Mertens received dozens of messages bearing the same sentiment. His sexual preferences were irrelevant, his team profoundly stated.
In an incredibly powerful open letter addressed to his deeply conservative home town of Kennewick, Washington Conner wrote:
"I have seen the best and worst of Tri-Cities. Unfortunately, we are a little behind the world on our perception of what it means to like the same-sex. We have a responsibility to reject harmful stereotypes. By doing so, i hope to improve the lives of others."
Conner spoke of his lack of role models when coming out, but instead of hiding who he is, he has become that role model for others. An incredibly noble and courageous act.
Now all he has to worry about is winning kicking duties next season.
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