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Gay national champion college football player came out during ‘Never have I ever’

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Darrion McAlister is loved by teammates.

Darrion McAlister is a force on the Marian Univ. offensive line.
Tricia Wilcox-McClung

Darrion McAlister decided it was time. After years of struggling with being gay, he wanted to tell his family, his coaches, his teammates... the world.

He also wanted to tell other gay athletes who are struggling with who they are. Tired of the struggle, he wants to now help others accept who they are and find acceptance in sports.

He decided to do all of that with a powerful profile in the Indianapolis Star today. Please do go to their site and read McAlister’s full story. It’s great and so reflective of other stories we hear from football: Fear leads to courage leads to action leads to acceptance leads to relief.

McAlister plays for Marian Univ. in Indiana, competing in the NAIA.

When I asked McAlister if he had heard a single negative reaction to his coming out from anyone he knows, his answer was the same as so many others we’ve heard from:

“Honestly, none at all.”

One super cool part of the story reflects two things we talk about all the time: The power of community and the power of the domino effect. McAlister connected with another gay football player a while back who wasn’t totally out but was finding his way.

His name is Kyle Kurdziolek, an all-state linebacker from Illinois in 2013 who will be a junior this season at St. Francis (Illinois). By the end of Marian’s 63-14 victory on Nov. 5 against St. Francis, after battling each other to nearly every whistle, McAlister and Kurdziolek had struck up a friendship. They reconnected on social media, grew closer, and at some point Kurdziolek told McAlister he’s gay.

“So am I,” McAlister wrote back.

They talked about coming out. Kurdziolek did it through Outsports.com on Feb. 8. That was Wednesday of last week.

The next morning, McAlister sends me his email.

McAlister reinforced the power of connecting with another athlete like him after his story came out.

“All my inspiration comes from Kyle Kurdziolek. He's the reason I am able to accept who I am today,” he wrote on Facebook.

For the record, McAlister is apparently a bad-ass on the field. Last season he was named All-MSFA First Team (MSFA represents small colleges in five Midwestern states). His offensive line last season cleared the way for over 230 rushing yards per game and allowed only six sacks. That’s six sacks on the season, not per game.

He and his team won the national title in 2015.

I do have one quibble with the piece that I just can’t let go anymore. It’s something I’ve talked about before, but which I’m going to get louder about in 2017. I don’t mean it as a criticism of writer Gregg Doyel, but rather an invitation for sports writers to open their eyes to the truth.

“There will be readers who don’t like this story at all,” Doyel wrote early on in the piece. Why? Why say that? The vast majority of Americans and American athletes have moved past this. Why give such credence to a fast-shrinking minority? Even at the height of the marriage debate, the vast majority of Americans had no issue with a gay athlete.

Why does the American sports media cling to this long-since-past idea that sports are homophobic? That Americans have a problem with gay people? We can marry in every state. I haven’t heard a negative coming out story in sports in a decade. Yet the media just keeps pushing this idea that coming out SHOULD be difficult, that LGBT athletes SHOULD be afraid to come out.

No, they shouldn’t.

Thank you, Darrion McAlister, for shining yet another light on the truth. Hopefully the sports media will start believing the truth soon.

And if you’re a gay athlete who wants to reach out to McAlister, he wants to hear from you...

You can find Darrion McAlister on Facebook, or on Twitter or Instagram @_darrionnnnnn. You can also email him at mcalister.darrion@gmail.com.