No one who has played in the National Football League has ever come out publicly during their playing days.
But Wade Davis, who was a cornerback with the Tennessee Titans, the Washington Redskins, and the Seattle Seahawks, has just joined a select group of former players to declare to the world that they are gay.
'You just want to be one of the guys, and you don’t want to lose that sense of family,' Davis tells Outsports.com in an exclusive interview posted Tuesday (5 June). 'Your biggest fear is that you’ll lose that camaraderie and family.'
By talking about his sexuality publicly, David goes down a path only David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo and Roy Simmons have taken before.
During his 2000-03 NFL career, Davis struggled with injuries and did not go on to enjoy the successful careers those other then-closeted gay players had. He suffered a series of injuries during three different training camps and never got to play a regular season game. The most action he saw was during a season with NFL Europe’s Berlin Thunder and another with the Barcelona Dragons.
'There was a part of me that was a little relieved because, when I knew football was over, my life would begin,' Davis said. 'I had this football life, but I didn’t have another life away from that. Most of the guys had a family and a wife, but I had football and nothing else.'
With the NFL long behind him, Davis works at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City which serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning youth. His job is preparing the youth there for the workplace.
'How many people get to live out their two dreams?' he says. 'I got to play in the NFL, and now I get to change the world.'
While in the NFL, Davis never uttered a word about his sexuality and was popular with teammates due to the likable persona he projected.
But the cloud was always there. Davis said there was a guy on the team who players suspected of being bisexual and one teammate suggested he stay clear of the guy or it would hurt his chances of making the line-up.
'They’d say, ‘You know what Wade? You have a chance to make this team. You probably shouldn’t associate with that guy,'' Davis remembered. 'It wasn’t said as though [his bisexuality] was a bad thing, it was just that I should not let this perception be on my shoulders too.'
While football was a major passion, so is his current job.
'It’s the first job since football that I wake up excited for work,' he said. 'For these kids, the question isn’t whether they are shooting a basketball well, it’s whether they have a place to sleep tonight, whether they’ve eaten today. Sports is less significant than what I see these youth go through every day.'