Openly gay former NFL player Kwame Harris has opened up about being gay in the NFL, saying if he had the chance again he would hope to have “found the strength” to come out, and that he didn’t want gay athletes to “feel alone”.

Harris, formerly a player for the San Francisco 49ers said in the interview that he wanted to ensure that gay sports people knew that being gay was a “common feeling”

In the interview with CNN, Harris said: “You want to escape the despair and turmoil and your mind goes to dark places,” Harris said of keeping his sexuality secret. “I’m happy today, and I’m glad they were just ideas and I didn’t act on any of them”

“The cost was great not speak candidly open about myself in complete manner,” Harris said. “If I could have done it differently, I would have hoped I found the strength [to come out].”

“I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure what their sexuality is to know those are common feelings,” he said. “Don’t feel alone in having them.”

Kwame Harris was publicly outed before January’s Super Bowl, after Harris was charged with felony domestic violence and assault charges involving a former boyfriend.

His outing provoked a negative reaction from current 49er Chris Culliver.

Culliver, who player for the 49ers in the Super Bowl said in an interview that he didn’t think there were any gay players on his team, and that they wouldn’t be welcome if there were.

Mr Culliver since apologised, and said his comments were “hurtful and ugly”, and said they didn’t reflect his true feelings on the issue. He was made to undergo sensitivity training for the comments.

“[I was] really just not thinking. [It was] something that I thought. Definitely nothing that I felt in my heart,” Culliver said.

Harris responded to Culliver’s comments, saying: ”It’s surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people.”

Kwame Harris has said he hopes his experiences could work as an example to support gay people struggling with their identity.

Earlier this week the editor of a Pentecostal Christian magazine has weighed into the debate over there being no openly gay US professional athletes, said that being gay is “clearly a sin”, and that gay NFL players should not come out.