Former NFL defensive back, Wade Davis, was just one of the guys during his first training camp with the Tennessee Titans in 2000. He went through locker room hazing rituals, he played cards with star Jevon Kearse, and he was invited to fellow DB Samari Rolle's wedding.
But Davis kept a secret in the locker room that he has only recently revealed in public - that he is a gay man. According to CBS News, in recent interviews Davis talked about what it was like being gay in the NFL.
Davis states in an interview, "You just want to be one of the guys, and you don't want to lose that sense of family," he continues, "Your biggest fear is that you'll lose that camaraderie and family. I think about how close I was with Jevon and Samari. It's not like they'd like me less, it's that they have to protect their own brand."
Davis also played for the Redskins and Seahawks briefly played in NFL Europe before injuries ultimately ended his career. During his career, he said he kept his secret to protect his job.
He distinctly remembers an instance when a Titans teammate strongly advised him not to associate with another player who was seen as "different" because it could jeopardize his chances of making the team.
Davis said the comment "was like a lightning bolt that shot through my entire body" and it prompted him to go to great lengths to project a macho image.
"I can remember going out that night, going to a strip club, spending probably $1,500 just to make sure ... if they even had a glimmer of thought that I was gay, that I wasn't," Davis said. "I was willing to make it rain just like the rest of them were."
Davis first revealed the fact that he was gay to a coworker after his playing days. He said his decision to come out was both "liberating" and "awful."
"(It was like) taking a scab off my entire body as aggressively and physically as I can," he said.
Davis said he decided to come out publicly because "there's an opportunity here to affect change in the world."
Davis now works at his "dream job," a New York organization that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and he also volunteers for President Obama as an advocate for the LGBT community.
No NFL player has ever come out during his career and only a handful have revealed they were gay after retirement. However, several players - including Davis' former teammate Kearse - said they would have no problem with having a gay teammate.
Jevon Kearse said last month, "In the game of football, it's like a war out there.” "Once you get out on the field, all that stuff is to the side. You're on my side. I played in the NFL for 11 years, I'm sure there were at least one or two guys along the line that were gay."
Like in the NFL, homosexuality is still looked at as taboo in the other major sports as well as the armed forces. Although progress has been made, these people still must fight to keep their careers, family, friends, and much more.
We applaud Wade Davis for his brave decision. We hope that his peers of the NFL accept him for the man he is, and bring forth an eventual time where those like Davis do not have to live a lie to protect themselves. Maybe Davis' move will inspire other LGBT athletes to come forward.