Football is king in American sports and that’s even true for Outsports.
Four of the top six most-read Outsports stories of the decade were related to football and the sport continues to drive conversation whenever players come out as gay or bi.
For years, it was impossible to find college football players who were publicly out, but that has changed in the past three years. This past season saw eight gay or bi players who came out openly, their presence showing that LGBTQ athletes have a place in every sport.
Some players were accomplished — Avery Saffold made all-conference; Scott Frantz started at left tackle for a team going to a bowl and Jack Storrs led his team in tackles. One made history — Wyatt Pertuset who in 2018 became the first openly gay player to score a touchdown. But all eight made a difference by being true and honest and authentic.
For their presence as out athletes in a sport long thought hostile, Outsports has selected the eight gay and bi college football players as our Male Athletes of the Year.
Scott Frantz, Kansas State offensive lineman (FBS), senior. (Read his coming out story)
Jacob Van Ittersum, offensive lineman at Northwood University Michigan (Division II), senior. (Read his coming out story)
Wyatt Pertuset, Capital University (Ohio, Division III) wide receiver and punter, senior. (Read his coming out story)
Cy Hicks, College of Idaho (NAIA) offensive lineman, sophomore. (Read his coming out story)
Avery Saffold, Amherst College in Massachusetts (Division III) defensive back, senior. (Read his coming out story)
Christian Zeitvogel, Kalamazoo College (Michigan Division III) offensive lineman, sophomore. (Read his coming out story)
My-King Johnson, enrolled at New Mexico Military Institute, a junior college, after transferring from the University of Arizona. (Read his coming out story)
Jack Storrs, Pomona-Pitzer linebacker, senior. (Read his coming out story)
The reaction of Storrs to being selected for our award can speak for the group. Storrs’ team wore Pride stickers on their helmets this season to honor all LGBTQ athletes.
“What moved me the most was how proactively supportive people have been,” Storrs told Outsports about the reaction to his coming out.
“When I came out, I immediately had what felt like a million people sending me notes or calling me expressing their support, love and admiration for my strength — they were friends, family and people I hadn’t connected with in so long!
“As time has gone on, I’ve had random people from the So Cal area or back home in Virginia reach out to me in person and express how impressive my story is. Many people, and mostly parents and other adults, have told me they wished they lived their lives with the same strength, confidence and truth that I do. These people aren’t necessarily referring to their sexuality, but were referencing life experiences in general.
“For so many people of all sorts of connections to go out of their way to make me feel cherished and like a hero is a feeling that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
“I must add that my brothers on the team and the coaching staff have all been extremely supportive of me (and protective, as we are with everyone in the family) and it has not withered at all!”
We realize that only eight out college players seems an absurdly small number given the thousands who play and the hundreds who haven’t come out yet publicly. But we would rather celebrate the courage these athletes took to be themselves and continue to play a sport they love.
2018 — Figure skater Eric Radford
2017 — Rower Robbie Manson
2016 — Boxer Orlando Cruz
2015 — Figure skater Eric Radford
2014 — Soccer player Robbie Rogers
Outsports has divided year-end Athlete and Hero awards to highlight accomplishments of people across genders. We understand that not everyone fits into the binary gender world currently established in sports, and we will honor that with additional awards when appropriate.