(This story was published in 2002).

Esera Tuaolo will become that rarest of breeds, an out ex-professional athlete, when he reveals to HBO that he is gay. The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the Oct. 29 “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” that contains a segment on Tuaolo, a defensive lineman for four NFL teams in his nine-year career, most notably with the Minnesota Vikings.

In the segment, AP reports that Tuaolo talks about the “difficulty and frustration” inherent in keeping his sexual orientation secret.

“They didn’t know who Esera Tuaolo is,” he says. “What they saw was an actor.”

Tuaolo, who played on the 1998 Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl team, said players during his career regularly told gay jokes in the locker room.

“They made me go further and further into depression, further and further into shame. Sometimes, suicidal,” he said.

ESPN’s Sterling Sharpe, a teammate of Tuaolo with the Packers, also was interviewed on the show, AP said. Asked what would have happened had Tuaolo come out while he was still active, Sharpe replied: “He would have been eaten alive and he would have been hated for it.”

Tuaolo, 34, who lives with his partner and two adopted children in the Minneapolis area, is an actor and singer described by one critic as having a “gorgeous voice.”

In addition to the HBO show, Tuaolo will be profiled in this Sunday’s New York Times. Outsports will review the HBO show and provide a more detailed report this weekend.

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