Kevin Maxen just made sports history.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ associate strength coach publicly came out as gay Thursday, becoming the first-ever publicly out male coach in major American men’s pro sports. He spoke to Outsports about his barrier-breaking decision.
“I don’t want to feel like I have to think about it anymore,” he said. “I don’t want to feel like I have to lie about who I am seeing, or why I am living with someone else.”
While Maxen has been privately out for some time–he’s dated his boyfriend, Nick, for over two years–he says support from friends and family prompted him to finally live the open life he’s always wanted.
“It wasn’t until recently – and with the immense love and support of my family, my friends, colleagues and peers, and the courage and sacrifice from my partner – that I realized I have the right and responsibility to love and be loved, and that maybe sharing this will hopefully give someone else the strength to accept their own life and take control of their own story,” he said.
Before joining the Jaguars, Maxen was a strength coach for the football teams at Baylor and Vanderbilt. He played his college ball for Western Connecticut State University, a Division III program in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.
A standout linebacker, Maxen played all 30 games for the team in his three years, finishing his career with 171 total tackles. He earned first-team defense honors his senior season.
Maxen says he started questioning his sexuality in college, where he was also captain for three seasons.
Gay men don’t just belong on the football field. They’re also leaders.
With that in mind, Maxen says he couldn’t take shielding his personal life any longer. He would see his colleagues in the Jaguars organization attending functions with their families and partners, and wanted the same for himself.
“You have other coaches who have significant others, and they’re talking about their significant others,” he said. “And I felt guilty that I couldn’t do the same thing, that I was letting myself down. I want the person I’m with to be able to share that with me.”
Maxen started his coming out process in February 2022, when he got in touch with Carl Nassib, the first out gay active NFL player. Nassib advised Maxen throughout the process, showing the importance of visibility.
When Nassib came out two years ago, he wanted to serve as a resource for other LGBTQ+ people in football. Mission accomplished.
Now, Maxen can do the same.
“For a while I had such an anger for myself and hatred that I thought was from a fear of what others might think about who I am,” he said. “But that wasn’t it. It was an anger and hatred of myself because I put myself in a life where I was living by other people’s rules and not by my own.”
Now playing by his own rules, Maxen will head to Jaguars training camp Friday, when the rookies report to the facility. The rest of the team is expected Tuesday.
The Jaguars went 9-8 last season and won the AFC South, besting the Los Angeles Chargers in a thrilling playoff game.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan commended Maxen for his courage.
“Kevin is a Jacksonville Jaguar through and through, and a key member of our football team and community,” he said,” via ESPN. “I look forward to seeing Kevin next week at training camp, and hope that he comes to work each day during camp and through the season feeling confident, free and at peace.”
Over time, Maxen has found peace. Earlier this summer, he introduced Nick to his high school friends, who responded with the following question: “why didn’t you tell us earlier?”
So far, the reaction to his announcement has been outstanding.
“As a Black Jew who has dated both men and women, who has been a strength coach at the highest level of professional football, I’ve learned that how I look, what I believe in, and especially who I am physically or emotionally attracted to should not impact the way I or other people view my worth,” he said. “And It should certainly not dictate what I feel I am capable of accomplishing.”
It’s a common refrain for LGBTQ+ athletes and people in sports to talk about how coming out bolstered their careers. Finally free of burden, they felt like they could truly excel.
May Maxen follow in their footsteps. So far, he’s off to a great start.
Scroll down for more reaction to Maxen’s historic announcement…
Congrats to @Jaguars coach Kevin Maxen for living in your truth. Your story will help an encourage people to live in their truth. Wish you were there when I played with the @Jaguars in 1997. Feel free to reach out for help as you navigate your new life.— Esera Tuaolo (@eseratuaolo) July 20, 2023
Great story @CydZeigler pic.twitter.com/N6vUUQceWB
Congratulations Kevin Maxey! 🏆 ☝🏽Welcome to Jacksonville!— Nancy Hogshead, JD, Oly (@Hogshead3Au) July 20, 2023
Thank you Carl Nassib and Kevin Maxen, let’s normalize this in men’s sports!— Rich Boudet (@richboudet) July 21, 2023
Good for him!!— Fred Kitchell (@fredkitchell) July 20, 2023
Happy he’s comfortable being honest about his true self— Stephen Lylyk (@LylykStephen) July 20, 2023
Now let’s win football games
Keep being you!— Staunton Peck (@stanto21) July 21, 2023