A former NFL player has come out as gay, citing “athletes like Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Brian Sims” for giving him the strength to accept his sexuality alongside his identity as an athlete.

In a post on his blog entitled ‘Seeing Through The Fog’, former NFL player Brad Thorson, 26, wrote: “I’ve been told many times that the process of coming out is cathartic. Yet since coming to terms with my sexuality, I found it arduous and unnecessary. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. So today, I’m putting it in writing and not looking back.

“I’m gay. I’m also an athlete. For years, I struggled to unite these two identities in my own mind. Not until after my professional athletic career came to an end did I allow myself to understand my sexuality. Now, three years later, I’m finally ready to share that with people.”

Thorson signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2011, having played American football at college in Wisconsin and Kansas.

In his post, published on Independence Day, Thorson continued: “If not for the strength of athletes like Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Brian Sims, I would likely still be struggling with my own cognitive dissonance. Each of their stories reinforced the truth that there is nothing wrong with being a competitive athlete and gay.

“Just as their stories helped me come to understand and accept myself, I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I hope to help someone else to understand his or her identity as a gay athlete.”

Jason Collins is an American basketball star who came out publicly in an article for Sports Illustrated magazine in April 2013.

Michael Sam came out in an interview with ESPN in February 2014. He made history in May when he was drafted to the St Louis Rams, making him the NFL’s first openly gay player.

At the time, NFL pundit Neil Reynolds told PinkNews.co.uk that he believed Sam’s drafting would inspire more players to come out.

Brian Sims came out in college while captain of the Bloomberg University football team; they reached the Division II National Championship game. In 2012, he became the first openly gay lawmaker in the state of Pennsylvania.

He also praised the Fog, an open rugby team in San Francisco: “The Fog has become a family to me. They’ve taught me a new sport and to accept myself.”

He described how, at a recent event, he met the mother of Mark Bingham, a former gay Fog player whose memory inspired the Bingham Cup, a biennial international gay rugby union tournament.

The last few years have seen a new wave of openly gay athletes. Yesterday, it was revealed that secret filming for an upcoming documentary on gay athletes took place at the Sochi Winter Olympics.