It turns out Michael Sam isn’t the first openly gay athlete to come out of the University of Missouri.
In 2008, sophomore Greg DeStephen (pictured) was an openly gay swimmer at the university. The 5’8 blondie’s story was first reported by Gay.com and Out Sports five years ago, but it didn’t receive the same amount of attention Sam’s has. Until now.
A new feature in The Missourian details DeStephen’s coming out experience, which wasn’t without setbacks. DeStephen claims he was shunned by teammates after they learned he was gay.
“It was uncomfortable,” DeStephen told Gay.com in 2008. “A lot of the guys didn’t know how to deal with the situation. There are a lot of people here from small, conservative communities who have never known an [out] gay person. I wasn’t included in a lot of activities outside of the pool. I didn’t have a lot of guy friends. One teammate even told someone else I was going to go to hell for my lifestyle.”
But DeStephen refused to let this distract him.
“What I was going through at that point, I could draw on those experiences to make me work harder and really have an outlet for how I was feeling,” he said in his interview with The Missourian.
And work hard, he did.
Despite a difficult sophomore year, DeStephen eventually became a four-time All-American in diving for Missouri. He also represented the U.S. in the Canada Cup diving competition. And in 2009-2010, he became the captain of the swimming and diving team.
Today he lives in Dallas and is a college recruiter.
“I felt for a long time that if I ever have the ability to change things for the better, that I would do that,” he told The Missourian. “It is something that I’ve thought about a lot growing up and, especially, now.”
Scroll down to see photos of DeStephen both in and out of the pool.