Kevin Grayson, one of the most decorated football players and talented athletes Virginia has ever produced, has come out as gay. He compared hiding his sexuality to “a cancer that can eat away at you” and hopes that coming out can help others who may be dealing with similar pressures.
“People didn’t believe it because I was an athlete,” Grayson told CBS 6. “They’re like ‘Kevin plays football, he plays basketball he runs track–no way you know?’”
“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?’”
Grayson, 25, was named all district and all-region while playing both offense and defense in high school, then in college he helped the University of Richmond win the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision national title. At Richmond, he is still ranked second all-time among receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
In 2011, he missed out on the NFL draft thanks to a torn ligament, but while playing professionally in Italy last year he was named MVP of his league’s super bowl.
Grayson never considered coming out until now, not because he was embarrassed, but rather his focus was on school and football. He didn’t want to serve as a distraction on the team or be known simply as “the gay athlete.” “If you are an athlete, you want to be an athlete,” he said. “You want to be known for what you’ve done on the basketball court, football field, tennis court, whatever.”
He also experienced firsthand the homophobic nature of the locker room, where both coaches and teammates uttered slurs like “princess”, “faggot” and “homo.” Grayson said coaches are often “naive to the fact that they could have a gay player in their meeting” and thought it would be “funny to think about whether or not if I told this coach, what would they say?”
He did, however, confide in a few trusted teammates — some of them also turned out to be gay, but none of them turned their back on him. “It’s like the biggest weight lifted off your shoulder,” he said. “To know that you have a teammate that basically says ‘I don’t care.’”
Grayson plans to continue playing professionally for a few more years, either in Italy or Canada. And though he missed out on the NFL, Grayson has “no doubt” there are active gay players. He even admits to knowing a few himself, but described that knowledge as “a ‘you take it to the grave’ type thing.”
Grayson, who’s in a relationship (much to our disappointment because…hi), was able to find the strength to come out thanks to the support from his family and friends. Now, in sharing his story, he hopes to inspire others. “Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t be the athlete you want to be. Doesn’t mean you can’t be a star,” he said. “Doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and go just as hard as anybody else, if not harder.”
Photo: Kevin Grayson’s Facebook