One of the things I've come to learn about talking with professional athletes about gay issues is that you never know who's going to open up like a gift at Christmas and share some pretty intimate things. Enter Deandre Hopkins, the first-round pick of the Houston Texans in this year's NFL draft, selected No. 27 overall. You want a man who fits the stereotype of a homophobe? Aside from being a professional football player, he has spent his entire life in rural South Carolina, growing up smack-dab between Charlotte and Atlanta. He played in college for the nearby Clemson Tigers.
Yet when I met him at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere two weeks ago, this school and ACC record holder had no problem talking about gays in and outside of sports. That likely comes from having a sister and semi-famous good friend who are both gay.
Zeigler: How did you feel when Jason Collins came out?
Deandre Hopkins: I feel like we all bleed the same blood. I was happy that he came out. All people are equal in my eyes. My sister is a lesbian. I'm not against gay marriage or anything like that. I feel like that's what sports need, more people coming out and being themselves.
Zeigler: How long ago did your sister come out?
Hopkins: It's been since middle school. It's just hormone-wise I feel like it's genetics. I don't feel like she wanted to be, it's just how she was born.
Zeigler: If one of your teammates came out how would you feel about that?
Hopkins: I would be more than happy, I would greet them with open arms. They're my teammates, that doesn't make them any different.
Zeigler: Lots of [NFL players] tell me this, that people are people. But America thinks football players are big dumb jocks, and they hate gay people and they hate anybody who's not like them. Where does that come from?
Hopkins: That's the stereotype that we get. We're out there with helmets on. They don't see our face, they're not with use every day. They just see us when we're in that stadium like a gladiator. They buy tickets to watch us. They don't converse with us often. That's just the stereotype we get. You watch gladiators, you don't know those guys out there, you just see what they do and perform for a living. Like your job, a lot of people might be like, ‘oh he's an interviewer, he's a douchebag.' It's just a stereotype we get. It's sad, but oh well.
Zeigler: It is interesting. We don't see your face, and guys are like robots probably to most people. You're just guys in a video game.
Hopkins: It's all image. One of my good friends is Nick Gruber. He used to be Calvin Klein's boyfriend. He's one of my good friends. He's a cool guy. He's never tried to holler at me or anything. He's just a friend.
You can find Hopkins on Twitter, where he goes by his childhood nickname of Nuk.
Also check out our interview with Steelers quarterback Landry Jones at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event.