A gay American footballer is hoping to be drafted by an NFL team, and could be the first openly-gay player the industry has anticipated for some time.
Alan Gendreau, who was not drafted last year, now hopes to be able to woo an NFL team, and as a kicker, hopes to be invited to a team’s organised team activity, in the next few months. He came out when he was fifteen years old.
He was the leading scorer in Middle Tennessee State University, and scored the second longest field goal ever, but left the sport when it was time to try out for the NFL. He now hopes to find a way back into professional sport.
In the interview, posted by Outsports, Gendreau discusses his religion, being asked to step down as a leader in his church, when a parent reported that he had a boyfriend to the pastor.
Talking about the mental preparation for a football game, he says: “You have such little time on the field, you really think about every detail, and it really becomes a mental game. I remind myself, I keep saying, ‘you’re gonna make this, you’re gonna make this’.”
He then goes on to discuss religion, and his own Christianity. he says: “Growing up, I loved music, it’s a huge part of my life. And my choir teacher in high high school asked me to be a part of the worship team at our church. In my Freshman year at College, I sang Christmas Eve service, brought my boyfriend, to like a highschool get together with all my highschool friends.
“One of the parents went and told the pastor of my church, that ‘Alan Gendreau is gay’, and the pastor had someone address me, and asked me to politely step down from my leadership position in the church.
“I mean, I grew up in that church, I was baptised in that building at six months old. To get shunned, it was like totally, a knife to the heart.”
Discussing playing on his high school American football team, he addressed that religion played a big part in bringing the team together.
“We had a team chaplain, we prayed before every game,” saying his team knew he was gay, he said that “my success on the field, I don’t really think they cared what I did off the field.”
When asked if he had ever had a homophobic experience playing American football, he says “not one.”
“I think it all boils down to, we were a team, as a family, and you just come as you are. That brotherhood is really tight, and I really don’t think a lot of people don’t understand – how tight a football team is.”
“Being gay and playing football, there’s no contradiction.” He continues: “I just want people to know that you can still be who you are, and the best person that you can be, and still be gay. It didn’t matter for me, I didn’t have any problem with it, my friends didn’t have a problem with it. My thing is that I want people to know that it’s okay.”
Concluding, Gendreau talks again about mentally preparing to play football. He says: “You’ve gotta be really calm at all times, and you can’t psyche yourself out because thinking too much can be your worst enemy”.
A strong link between Christianity and American football is often cited, particularly for one of the reasons why NFL players might find it difficult to come out.
Critics have speculated over the potential appointment of Gendreau, and conceding that since he left the industry, it is more difficult, many believe that he has the talent to succeed in being drafted.
“It’s totally legit that he can get into the league,” Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a strong advocate of gay rights, told Outsports. “Place-kicking is all about doing this one specific skill set. And if you can do that, you can make it whether you’ve been out of football for one year or 10 years.”
Last month, speaking to Erik Brady on USA Today, equal rights campaigner and former NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo, said he thought that less of a connection between religion and baseball, compared with football meant that a baseball player was more likely to come out first.
Ayanbadejo earlier in April said he knew of four gay NFL players who were looking to coordinate coming out, in order to face any potential backlash together. If drafted, Gendreau could beat the four to it.
Following the announcement that he was hoping to be drafted, Gendreau tweeted: “Thanks everyone for the incredible feedback. This has truly exceeded my expectations!!! I definitely feel loved and supported!”
In the US there is currently no openly gay player in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League.