When Xavier Colvin stood on a stage in front his teammates with a microphone earlier this month, he knew there was no turning back. The Butler Bulldogs linebacker had finally become comfortable with being gay, and he wanted his entire team to know who he truly was.
It had been a long journey for Colvin from childhood to that stage. Like every other young football player in America, he grew up with images of what a “real man” was supposed to be, how he was supposed to behave, and whom he was supposed to love. Being gay seemed like none of that.
Yet over the last two years Colvin has come to a different understanding. Battling bouts of depression, he sought refuge with a school counselor who opened his eyes to a more loving way to view his own identity.
Seeing others come out to their teammates and coaches also inspired Colvin. It was after months of reading many coming-out stories on Outsports that Colvin reached out last year, still struggling to find the strength to come out to the people closest to him.
“I don't want to disappoint my teammates or coaches or be looked at as different,” he said. “So seeing other people come out and be OK with being themselves made me realize I could be OK with being myself."
Still, those lingering images of strong, heterosexual men dominating football lingered in his mind. He had grown up with his father, two-time Super Bowl champion Rosevelt Colvin, being one of those macho role models. As a young gay football player with precious few examples that felt like him, merging football and being gay in his own head was difficult.
“A lot of times when it comes to gay men in sports we feel like people think we will be ‘less-than’ because of our personal life. I got so caught up trying to please others that I fell into a path of always trying to help others and not myself. Finally I became courageous enough to be myself.”
As he came out to a couple teammates and friends earlier this year, the fog lifted from his eyes. Every person at school he told was supportive, and every supportive message built a foundation of strength in him to share his true self with his coaches and his team.
Earlier this summer the guy the team knows as “X” stepped on a stage holding a microphone in front of his teammates and coaches. He had told his head coach, Jeff Voris, that he had something he felt was important to share with the team: He’s gay. His linebackers coach, Derek Day, thought it would be good for Colvin to share. They supported him wholeheartedly.
It had been an amazing transformation for Colvin that had happened so rapidly, going from completely closeted to talking about being gay in front of the entire team.
Colvin talked to his entire team about his upbringing, he talked about football, and he talked about being a gay man in the sport that had for so long felt like it didn’t want him there.
His Butler teammates made sure Colvin knew he was loved.
"Afterwards I got texts and phone calls,” Colvin said. “The freshmen who didn't know me came and shook my hand. And they all said, 'we’ve got your back.' They told me how proud they were of me. Not even a single negative reaction. It was all positive.”
While their response would have shocked Colvin a year ago, overwhelming support has now become the most common reaction from college football players across America. Over the last few years we have heard from people like Michael Sam, Wyatt Pertuset, Scott Frantz and many others coming out to their college football teammates in “Red States” and finding total acceptance.
Colvin is one of about a half-dozen gay college football players to come out publicly just this year.
“What I’ve come to learn from my 105 teammates and 15 coaches is that no one cares, and it's not as big of a deal as it used to be. People care more about you as a person and your mental health. It took me a while to learn that.”
The redshirt sophomore is looking at the Bulldogs’ upcoming season with a whole new set of eyes. His role this year was expected to increase even before the heavy weight of life in the closet was lifted off of his shoulders.
Butler football opens its 2017 schedule at Illinois State University this Saturday in the town poetically named “Normal.”
"I wish I would have been OK with myself sooner, but I think timing is everything. I feel like with the increased role this fall, on top of being more mature, I think this will work out well."
Sharing his story on Outsports is the next step in using his personal story to help others. When he posted a picture on Instagram earlier this year he heard from youth in his hometown who were LGBT and empowered to see someone else from their town come out. He’s had #BeTrue on his Twitter handle for a while.
He hopes any visibility for himself as a gay athlete helps someone else.
"Mental health is very important to me,” Colvin said. “I've been in a bad place before, and I've had friends who were. It took a toll on my first semester last year.
"Other LGBT athletes and non-athletes have to realize they are not alone. There are other people with similar stories, similar backgrounds."