Ryan Deluca, the Furman University wide receiver, came out publicly as gay on Instagram on Thursday, less than two weeks after his final game for the Paladins.

He said in his Instagram post that coming out has been on his mind for a while.

“I’ve been wanting to come out for a while now,” he wrote. “I think I’m finally ready and I’m proud of it. I want to thank everyone who knows and has supported me to this point, you all mean a lot to me. Thank you to the one that makes me smile.”

The post got an outpouring of support from people in his life, including his current and former teammates.

Cam Burnette played at Furman with Deluca until 2018, when he transferred to East Carolina.

“So proud and happy for you,” Burnette wrote. “Love you bro.”

From DT Matt Sochova: “You deserve this 83. All love.”

Deluca wore No. 83 for the Paladins.

Fellow WR Noah Henderson: “Love you brotha.”

Nate Kyei-Donkor, who now plays for Duke: “Congrats brotha. Always love.”

“Almost every single one of my teammates, and almost everyone I’ve come in contact with at college, gave me love. And I didn’t expect it.”

And on and on and on.

“I wasn’t expecting the kind of reaction I got,” Deluca told Outsports via phone. “It was awesome. Almost every single one of my teammates, and almost everyone I’ve come in contact with at college, gave me love. And I didn’t expect it, that’s for sure.”

The head football coach at Furman also sent Outsports this message of support for his player:

“Ryan’s been a great student, player, teammate, and friend to everybody in our program and on campus,” said coach Clay Hendrix. “We love him and support him — always have and always will.”

Deluca said that while he did expect to receive some support, he also did expect some immediate detractors. To have universal love sent his way has blown him away.

“People were going out of their way to put it out there on their own social media,” he said. “It made me feel really good.”

It reflects the widespread support we found in our study of out LGBTQ athletes this year, Out In Sports, that showed 97% of LGBTQ college athletes who came out to their teammates had at worst a “neutral” experience doing so.

Deluca mentioned “the one that makes me smile” in his post. That person is his boyfriend, whom he met on Instagram after sending him a direct message one night when he found some “courage” to hit send. That was almost two years ago. Deluca has taken a staffing job in Las Vegas and will be moving there to be with his boyfriend next year.

The athlete, who grew up in small South Carolina town of under 20,000 people, said he felt he was gay in high school, but he only came to accept it his sophomore year in college. The last couple of years have involved some “secret” dating. He even came out to two teammates he trusted a couple years ago.

Ultimately a rumor started amongst teammates that Deluca might be gay, a rumor he dismissed.

Deluca said he almost never heard comments from his teammates that were degrading of gay people.

Ryan Deluca has found love and acceptance from the many teammates and people at Furman University who have reached out to him.

“I never thought I’d be unsafe in there,” he said, though he feared his relationships with his teammates would become more distant if he came out to them.

Deluca said the last 24 hours after sharing his true self on Instagram has lifted a huge weight off of his shoulders, that he wishes he had done this sooner, and that he woke up this morning feeling like a new man.

“I definitely feel different waking up today than I did yesterday,” he said. “There’s no more having to be on edge about anything, just no more anxiety, no more worries about the day. I don’t have to adjust my responses to anything. I can just live my life as me now, which is really cool.”

Deluca ends his career with Furman with 1,120 yards receiving and 10 total touchdowns. He caught a team-leading 24 receptions in the shortened Spring 2021 season and added 17 receptions for 224 yards in his final season this fall.

You can follow Ryan Deluca on Instagram and on Twitter.

If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.