Wade Davis tells an NFL story that, in many ways, is no different than that of thousands of other undrafted players struggling to make a team. Despite stints with the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks, the former defensive back never found his way onto a 53-man roster.
Wade lost that battle, but he hopes to win another that set him apart during his playing days. Years after leaving the game, Davis has admitted he is gay, a fact he says he couldn't have shared while in the NFL.
"I think subconsciously, I understood that being gay -- the way I was raised -- was wrong," Davis told Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation. "And there was no way that my family, at least, in my mind, would accept me. And also that my football family would accept me. Just because of the perception of being gay meant that you were less masculine."
Davis, now 34, told Nelson of the friendships he developed with Jevon Kearse, Samari Rolle and Eddie George in Tennessee more than a decade ago, but he kept his secret in a league that has never had an openly gay player. He told of a moment with the Titans in 2000, when another player was "perceived to be different," and was warned not to do something that could lead to not making the roster. Confronted by that reality, Davis kept quiet, spending thousands at strip clubs to fool his teammates.
"You just want to be one of the guys, and you don't want to lose that sense of family," Davis told OutSports.com. "Your biggest fear is that you'll lose that camaraderie and family. I think about how close I was with Jevon and Samari. It's not like they'd like me less, it's that they have to protect their own brand."
Last month, we shared a report from the NFL's Rookie Premiere, in which a dozen former and current NFL players told OutSports.com that having a gay teammate wouldn't matter today. Davis, for one, hopes that's true today. It certainly wasn't when he played.