Greg DeStephen did not have an easy go of it while a freshman diver for the University of Missouri. He went out on a date with a man, a teammate found out and told the rest of the swimming and diving team. He was shunned by many, with one telling him he would go to hell.
But DeStephen persevered through the adversity and went on to become a four-time All-American in diving for Missouri, and representing the U.S. in the Canada Cup diving competition. More importantly, DeStephen was selected by his teammates to be the captain of the swimming and diving team in the 2009-2010 season, his last year competing.
DeStephen's senior year was Brian Hoffer's 18th year as Missouri swimming and diving head coach, and the first time during Hoffer's tenure that a male diver had been elected captain.
"It was really apparent that there was a respect from the team," Hoffer says. "They respected him as a person and respected him as an athlete and, obviously, elected him a team captain. ... I'm really proud of the team for doing that."
DeStephen's journey from outcast to team captain is wonderfully told by Erik Hall in the Missourian, the paper in Columbia, where the University of Missouri is located. The article notes that DeStephen was the first openly gay athlete at the school, beating Michael Sam by a couple of years. His coming out story had first been told by Gay.com in 2008.
The former diver now lives in Dallas and his story is one of not letting the haters get you down. "What I was going through at that point, I could draw on those experiences to make me work harder and really have an outlet for how I was feeling," he says. His example also inspired swimmer Vito Cammisano to come out to the Missouri team in 2011 to total acceptance. "I'm completely appreciative that Greg did everything he could to make that possible for people that came after him," Cammisano said.
I love the anecdote of how a football player tried to correct his squatting form before the 5-8, 150-pound DeStephen let him know he could squat 325 pounds. Missouri weightlifting coach Tyler Looney even nominated DeStephen to represent Missouri as a 2010 All-American Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year, and he was nicknamed "Quadzilla" for his huge thighs.
There is a lot more to DeStephen's story, and I encourage you to read it in full.
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