Colton Underwood reflects on many aspects of his closeted life in his new Netflix series, including his time as an NFL prospect. In “Coming out Colton,” Underwood and other now-out former NFL players dish about how they navigated through heteronormative locker room cultures, and ultimately how they came to embrace their true identities.
For Underwood, who rose to national fame as winner of “The Bachelor” in 2019, the journey wasn’t easy. Growing up in a conservative and religious family, he says he thought he was “going to die” with his secret. In one scene, Underwood reveals he was taking Xanax daily to quell his depression and anxiety over possibly being gay. The two-time All-American says he thought it was just something he was just “going to get through.”
Underwood’s position as a football star also made it difficult for him to recognize his sexual orientation. His high school coach would often dismiss homophobic epithets as “locker room talk.”
When Underwood publicly came out on “Good Morning America” last April, he said anti-gay language he heard in locker rooms kept him in the closet.
Underwood played four stellar seasons for Illinois State University before practice squad stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders.
“It always hurt more when I heard coaches make comments or jokes,” Underwood says in the series. “How can I be a football player and still be gay?”
Underwood delves into that question with Michael Sam, as well as out ex-NFL players David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo. Out Olympic medalist Gus Kenworthy serves as Underwood’s gay liaison in the six-part series, which started filming in November 2020.
One of the criticisms directed towards Underwood is that his coming-out was more opportunistic than genuine, considering the series was in progress five months before his announcement on GMA. Underwood addresses that in the show, as well as the stalking and harassment allegations his ex-girlfriend, Cassie Randolph, outlined in a restraining order she filed against him in September 2020.
Underwood was publicly proclaiming his heterosexuality as recently as last year, writing in his autobiography that starring in the aggressively hetero reality show “taught him” he was straight.
“I’m sort of ashamed and mortified of what got me in this position in the first place. I put a girl through hell of my own insecurities,” Underwood says in the trailer.
Damla Dogan, Netflix’s director of unscripted series, told the New York Times she trusted the producers to address Underwood’s “complicated story.”
“I’ve lived my life so publicly straight, and I ran from a community I’ve belonged to my entire life,” Underwood said to the NYT. “I knew there was going to be a lot of people who didn’t understand. Maybe at the end of these six episodes, people still don’t understand. But at least I’ve tried to undo the wrongs.”
The first episode of “Coming out Colton” premiers Friday.