“My name is Erica Tamposi. I am an NFL Network producer. I am on-air talent. I am a creative. I am a friend. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a football fan. And I am gay.”

With those words in a blogpost at NFL.com last week, Erica Tamposi shared what it was like for her to live a closeted life behind the scenes and on the air at NFL Media.

“When I was hired by the NFL in 2017,” Tamposi wrote, “I assumed it would be an actively inclusive space for the LGBTQ+ community, an environment where I wouldn’t feel like an outsider. Not exactly.”

Tamposi decided to keep her private life separate and hidden from her professional life. But inner turmoil plagued her, she wrote. She asked herself, rhetorically: “How am I supposed to rise up the ranks and become the best professional version of myself if my own company doesn’t know the real me in the first place?”

Ultimately, after becoming a part of the Around the NFL podcast, Tamposi wrote that “the four male hosts of the show, production team and fans welcomed me with open arms, and I finally felt like I could showcase my true self.”

In addition to her work on the NFL Network, Tamposi uses her talents on social media as well, such as this tweet on Halloween:

Tamposi goes by “Ricky Hollywood” on social media, and often shows her comedic side.

On Thursday she tweeted her thanks for the outpouring of support and love in response to her story at NFL.com

And she expressed her love for her girlfriend, Katie Campagna.

After extending our congratulations on social media last Thursday, I contacted Tamposi via email and asked her to answer a few questions. She was kind enough to reply on Friday. Some of the following was edited for clarity.

OUTSPORTS: First the response to the post: What has it been like? How are you handling all this? Are you ready to stop talking about it?

ERICA TAMPOSI: Ugh. It’s been unreal. I can’t even really put it into words. My head has been spinning. I’ve been out to my friends and family (in shifts) over the years since I was 18 years old. Depending on the time/ trust level/ it just kept getting wider and wider. My girlfriend and I post pretty openly on Instagram so people can assume but I never really had a public coming out. This feels so OUT. It’s being picked up by news media and people I’ve never met are sending me hundreds of messages. I want to get back to everyone. It’s so cool to see people sharing their stories. I’m in awe. It’s all been so positive – which is quite shocking considering it’s the NFL and the fan base can sometimes be… a little less forgiving.

OS: What time frame was it that you came out to family/friends/coworkers at NFL Network?

ET: My close close friends knew before my parents, then my parents and then it started branching from there. My parents are the most wonderful people on the planet but had a lot of fears about how OTHER people would treat me. They didn’t want me to not be myself, but also shared a lot of their fears about society and others. Coworkers was a different story. It all depends on what I feel comfortable with — which is crazy in 2020 to even think about! But I always find myself holding my breath when people ask me who I live with or if I’m in a relationship. Every single time. My friends at the network knew early on, and then my closer co workers, but as far as management etc, I think they found out from this piece. GULP. (the response has been tear jerkingly beautiful)

OS: What more can you tell me about that very curious coworker who also happens to be a media icon? You wrote:

“I’ll never forget a text exchange one of the ATN Pod hosts showed me that he’d had with someone who’s a big name in the media world. This person, whom I consider a superstar, asked my co-worker if I was gay. My co-worker’s succinct reply, a text that still makes me smile as I type it:

“Yes and?”

ET: Hahah people are loving this story. It’s awesome. I produce/ am on a show called the Around the NFL and the 4 male hosts are just the best. They’re my close friends and mentors and sometimes act as my older brothers protecting me. They were like this before they found out, but once they did, I feel like they loved me even more. They get protective over me and are the first to defend me. Someone was just asking one of them (I won’t say who, but people are making a lot of guesses!) My heart just bursts when someone was asking an innocent question and they immediately get defensive just in case. They go to pride with me, and when we were in London, we spent a night at a gay bar all together dancing and having the time of our lives. I love those boys with all my heart.

OS: Let’s hear about you and Katie. How’d you meet? What was it that brought you two together? Any plans? Katie’s tweets were SO supportive and sweet. How’d that feel to see her response to your post?

ET: This is so 2020. We met on Bumble about 2 years ago. She is a Physical Therapist Assistant and also a flight attendant who had just transferred to LAX. We matched in LA, but our busy schedules made it hard to meet in person so we got to know each other through text and FaceTime. Then, Christmas break happened and I ended up flying back to New England to be with family. On Christmas Eve, Katie got called to work a flight from L.A. to Boston and we ended up meeting for the first time and having our first date at the only Chinese restaurant open in downtown Boston on Christmas night. She’s originally from Vermont and I’m from New Hampshire, so the fact that we “met” in L.A., but met for the first time on the other side of the country in a city close to both of our hometowns was quite the synchronicity. I could gush about her forever. She is the most supportive person I have ever met. I think she was more excited for all these responses than I was. I had so many emotions yesterday/ today and she’s been my calming voice through it all. She always encourages me to be me.

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It’s the size of the wine glass for me

A post shared by Ricky Hollywood (@ericatamposi) on

OS: What would you like Outsports readers to know about coming out in this way? We always say “Courage Is Contagious.” Your story is likely to inspire others to come out. What can you say to them?

ET: It’s always worse in your head. I’m having such positive conversations with people I was afraid to tell. And what am I hiding for? I’m not an axe murderer! I love someone, that’s something to celebrate. It doesn’t affect how I do my work, how I treat other people. What is BAD about this? I’m getting messages from people hiding who they love from their work and family and it breaks my heart. I am living fully free now. I have people who love me and defend me. You will, too. My mom used to tell me this when I was younger about anyone that made me upset but didn’t affect my normal day. “Shrink ‘em down to peanut size and flick them off your shoulder.”

Follow Erica Tamposi on Twitter (@EricaTamposi) and on Instagram (@ericatamposi). Read her full coming out story at NFL.com