A gay football player.

Even today it seems to be something very rare in the game.

Growing up, football was always my outlet to get out whatever I had built up inside me. When those pads came on, I felt at home.

I started playing football in third grade, and I still fall more in love with the game every year I play.

I grew up in a very small town called Richwood, Ohio, and graduated with a class size of barely 100 students. In high school I never had a problem with standing out. I made friends with everyone and tried to stay positive and nice to every kid in the school.

My coming-out story is a little different from many others you see today. Freshmen and sophomore year of high school I knew I was gay, but the thought of anyone knowing that part of me was single-handedly the most terrifying thought in my head, especially growing up with a family full of farmers who weren’t really exposed to that kind of thing yet.

I was always terrified with the locker room talk that went on about gays and how gross they are and how wrong being gay is. Yes, that talk was there. It just pushed me further into the back of the closet.

I always told myself I would never come out until I was done with high school and football.

Boy was I wrong.

My junior year of high school, right after my season had finished up, I had told only about five people who I truly was. Being in a small school, word traveled fast. Someone I had told had “accidentally” told another person about me being gay. Before long the rumor had stretched out to most, if not all, faculty and students at my school.

The football player was gay.

The news of the rumor left me thinking. Why was I lying about who I am just to please everybody else?

Everyone was so accepting and loving that I just felt foolish for ever hiding who I am.

The next day I came out and confirmed the rumors. After telling my friends and coaches and family, everyone was so accepting and loving that I just felt foolish for ever hiding who I am.

The people at my school quickly realized that, with one of the captains of the football team being gay, it really doesn’t define you. It’s simply a part of who you are. My teammates took it really well and didn’t treat me the slightest bit differently.

If anything, I got more respect because of it.

My senior year came along, and I was determined to make the most of it. That year in school was the best year I have ever had. I was on the honor roll both semesters, I was named homecoming king and prom king, and I was also voted as our student body president for my final year.

Wyatt Pertuset was a top player for North Union High School in Ohio.

It went even better for me on the field. I set a goal to be one of the first openly gay athletes to get an All-State Honor for football in the state of Ohio. With wrapping up my final season I did just that. I was named to the first team All-Conference, First Team All-District and Special Mention All-Ohio.

Being given those honors was such a great experience for me and really gave me a huge confidence boost.

After my senior season had finished up I had started to delve deeper into what college I was going to attend. There were many colleges that I found to be good contenders, but once I stepped on Capital University’s campus I fell in love.

I went to Capital on a visit because I was being recruited at the time. The players, coaches and all-around environment were so very welcoming and made me feel right at home. I signed my letter of commitment shortly after my visit and was ready to move on from my small town to take on Columbus.

Capital Univ. is a small Division 3 private school that is a part of the Ohio Athletic Conference, which includes football national semifinalists John Carroll and Mount Union.

At camp that summer, I was way more nervous about having to tell my new teammates that I was gay. I was so worked up about it the night before that I even had the thought of just going straight back in the closet. I decided to not even mention it and just let them find out.

After only a few days everyone knew, and everyone was so accepting. They treated me like family.

After only a few days everyone knew, and everyone was so accepting. They treated me like family. I’m so thankful for my teammates at Capital because just by creating that family-type bond, I am able to excel on and off the field during my college career.

My first year of college football was the time of my life. I started the season getting the chance to play on special teams and getting some reps at receiver.

After the first two games we had an injury on the team that gave me the opportunity to become the starting punter. I ended the season with a career high for a punt – 54 yards – and dropping four punts inside the 20.

My goal for next season is to be one of the first openly gay football players in the NCAA to score a touchdown and receive an All-Conference honor.

If you are in the closet and also an athlete and you’re reading this, I want you to know that coming out is not as scary as you make it out to be. It is the most relieving experience you’ll ever come to term with.

You finally get to be yourself and show people that the LGBT community knows how to play ball too.

Wyatt Pertusett will be a sophomore next season playing for the Capital Univ. football team. You can find him on Facebook, or on Instagram @WyPert or on Twitter @WyattAPertuset.

Story editor: Cyd Zeigler