Greg Cooper –– USA Today Sports

Ryan O'Callaghan on 'Two Outs:' I came out as gay because 'kids are still killing themselves'

June 23, 2017 - 4:18 pm

Former Patriots offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan used to be so uncomfortable with his sexuality, he thought committing suicide was more palatable than coming out as gay. But now, after coming out this week in a gut-wrenching Outsports profile, he says his new life mission is to spread awareness and make life easier for other closeted LGBT people. 

In an interview Friday on "Two Outs with Buck and Reimer," O'Callaghan said he's been overwhelmed by the response. Out of the more than 5,000 emails he's received, one of the most noteworthy came from a father who said O'Callaghan's story has propelled him to be more supportive of his gay teenage son. 

"He never wanted his son to feel what I felt," O'Callaghan said. "That’s kind of the goal of this. Make people open their eyes a little bit. In my piece, I purposely said that people need to realize that gay people are your sons, your daughters, your co-workers, your teammates, and even your husbands and wives. You just need to be a little open-minded and be respectful.”

One of the heroes of O'Callaghan's story is ex-Patriots and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. After some urging from his therapist, Susan Wilson –– Chiefs athletic trainer David Price referred O'Callaghan to her in the midst of his destructive painkiller addiction –– O'Callaghan came out to Pioli in 2011. Pioli, who spoke with Dale & Holley with Keefe Thursday, was beyond accepting –– asking O'Callaghan several times the real reason why he called for a meeting between the two of them. 

Though the NFL is a business, O'Callaghan says the relationships he built are real. 

"We’re all human beings. People have hearts, we’re all there for each other," he explained. "At the time, I was fortunate to have people like Dave Price and Scott Pioli and the Chiefs organization. A lot of people have judged Scott, for instance, based off of wins and loses. People need to realize these are damn good people, too." 

In the Outsports piece, O'Callaghan says he never heard a gay slur in an NFL locker room. While his teammates' boasting of their sexual conquests made him uncomfortable, he says NFL players are an accepting group. 

"When you’re in the closet, you hear it every time someone says a slur," he said. "But it was never like that. Football teams might be even a little more accepting of people’s differences, because we’re from all different walks of life –– all over the country. When you’re on a team, I think you’re automatically a little more open to people’s differences. Also, in the locker room in the NFL, you’re there to do a job. It’s different. People are older, more grown up. The mix of everyone is just different. I never did hear that in the locker room." 

With that said, O'Callaghan is a little surprised there isn't an active openly gay player in the league. 

"I thought after Michael Sam coming forward, having his shot in the NFL, I thought that maybe that would make someone feel more comfortable, just saying, ‘OK, it is possible to be gay [and play]. Look, this wasn't the end of the world,’ O'Callaghan said. "But it didn’t happen. There’s obviously other guys out there. So yeah, I am a little surprised. But hopefully –– hopefully –– people will see how overwhelmingly positive this experience has been for me and how many people I’ve had a positive affect on. You can imagine some higher-profile guy coming out. That would do an untold amount of good for the gay community." 

Coming from conservative Redding, Calif., O'Callaghan says his primary concern was always whether his friends and family members would accept him. In the ensuing years after his conversation with Pioli, he came out to everybody in his life, and was taken aback at the level of support he received. 

"It’s been so much more positive than I could’ve ever imagined," he explained. "Even, from this, the thousands and thousands of messages I’ve gotten. I’ve had a chance to read a few hundred of them at this point, and every single one of them has been overwhelmingly supportive, and that’s awesome. I just hope if there’s any other guys out there that are closeted, listening, considering coming out, just do it, but do it on your own terms, don’t let anybody force you. But just know it’s never as bad as you think.

"You said earlier, ‘Why is he coming out?’ Because kids are still killing themselves. I’d like to do my part to help stop that." 

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