Kicker Conner Mertens of Willamette (Oregon) University became the first active college football player to publicly come out as LGBT this week when he told his coach, followed by his team, followed by the world via social media, that he is bisexual.
According to outsports.com, Mertens received an overwhelming show of support from coach Glen Fowles and teammates. Mertens also wrote a letter to his hometown of Kennewick, Wash., and published it on his Twitter account.
"I'm bisexual," Mertens reportedly told Fowles. "I like dudes. I have a boyfriend. And next week, I'm going to tell the world."
"Coach didn't blink an eye," Mertens said. "He talked about how they don't build football players at Willamette, they build men, and that he was proud that I could tell him this about myself."
Although Washington has approved same-sex marriages, Mertens reportedly comes from a conservative pocket in the state, the Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, that made him apprehensive about his revealing his lifestyle before now.
"I had a smile on my face all the time as a kid, but I was dying on the inside," he said. "In my hometown, you have to fit in or you'll be exiled. If somebody had come out that I looked up to in the town, I would have been a lot happier."
Willamette is an NCAA Division III school that competes in the Northwest Conference. Mertens is a redshirt freshman who has yet to play for Willamette, although the story indicates he is the team's best option for the position beginning next season.
Reportedly, the Bearcats were also the first college football team to have a female participate in a game and score a point when Liz Heaston kicked two PATs in 1997 in a 27-0 win over Linfield College.