A former University of Richmond American football star has come out as gay, asking why he can’t be a successful, professional athlete, as well as being open about his sexuality.

Kevin Grayson, a wide receiver, played for the Richmond Spiders between 2007 and 2010, helping them to win the Football Championship Subdivision national title in 2008.

He was not drafted by the NFL, but played for a professional Italian team in Italy last year. Grayson said he had “no doubt”, that there were gay males playing in the NFL.

Going on to say that he had known gay players in the NFL, he said it was a “take it to the grave” kind of thing, once he found out certain players were gay.

“Those are the types of things where if I could go back and say; ‘Why can’t I be an athlete? Why can’t I be a star player? Why can’t I be the guy making plays that helps my team win, and still on the flip side, be a gay male?’” said Grayson in a TV interview, discussing his decision to come out now.

The 25-year-old played both basketball and football as a standout in high school, before attending University, and said he hadn’t come out as gay earlier, because he had to cause distraction at his teams, and because he had been concentrating on sport.

“If you’re an athlete, you want to be an athlete,” he said. “You want to be known for what you’ve done. … You don’t want to be that person who is always the gay athlete.”

Commenting on “hyper-masculine”, locker room mentality, Grayson said it was sometimes “like watching a film”.

“You know, it’s like ‘Stop being a princess, stop being a faggot,’ you know– ‘Homo!’” he continued.

Reports suggest that Grayson will either return to Italy, or attempt to get drafted into the Canadian Football League this year.

The issue of openly gay players in major US team sport is particularly poignant of late, as last week NBA star Jason Collins came out as gay, and said he intended to continue playing.

Collins last Monday spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

Yesterday, long-time NFL player Tony Casillas, spoke out to say that he played with gay American footballers in the past, and that he knew they were gay at the time.

Fellow former NFL player and Super Bowl Champion LeRoy Butler, who had an appearance at a Wisconsin church cancelled over a congratulatory tweet to Collins, said he would not take back the tweet because of kids looking up to him.