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Derek Schell is 'Fearless' on the cover of new LGBT-athlete photo book

Former Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell was chosen by Jeff Sheng as one of the covers of his FEARLESS book. Schell talks about what it means to go from the country's most conservative college to the cover of a book celebrating LGBT athletes.

Former Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell is one of the eight covers for Jeff Sheng's Fearless.
Former Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell is one of the eight covers for Jeff Sheng's Fearless.
Jeff Sheng, Fearless

FEARLESS: Portraits of LGBT Student Athletes is a photography book and personal memoir by American artist Jeff Sheng featuring the portraits of over 200 LGBT high school and college athletes. The book also contains an afterword by retired NBA basketball player Jason Collins. The FEARLESS book is being released today, and you can preview part of it and purchase it at fearlessbookstore.com.

Being chosen for the cover of the Fearless book gave me a huge sense of pride in myself.

Even when Jeff asked me to do a shoot with him, I was surprised. It was almost as if the whole process had come full circle. I was terrified and hidden and now I was in a position to wrap up a life-changing year as an openly gay college athlete.

I am aware of the large number of incredible out athletes there are in our society. To represent that group is an honor and a responsibility that I appreciate and do not take lightly.

I was nervous in the beginning, self conscious about how the photographs would turn out. The gym was quiet aside from the bouncing of the ball and the shutter of the camera. There stood an athlete, a story, and the creative mind capturing the journey.

When the shirt came off my friends Micah Porter and Anthony Nicodemo laughed in the background. But I trusted Jeff - He knew what he was doing.

The shoot was empowering, eye-opening, and entertaining. Jeff made the experience individual to me and to my sport. My arms became tired from dribbling and shooting the basketball, but it was well worth it. I was determined to convey the absence of fear and the full presence of my whole self.

As soon as we wrapped up, I was anxious to see the photos. In reviewing them, the emotions surfaced and I was ecstatic about how they turned out. I cannot thank Jeff enough.

I saw the final choice for the cover and was stunned. I love the idea of being mid-play, mid-dribble and having my head up. My mind is focused, and it's all about the game. My days as a closeted athlete seemed far behind me. I was strong. I was confident.

I was fearless.