Jaden Vazquez came out publicly as one of the few out LGBTQ Division 1 college football players. Now the senior for the Fordham Rams is looking ahead to what is likely his final season putting on the pads.
“It’s kind of sad knowing football has been part of my life since I was 6 or 7,” Vazquez told Outsports. For so many athletes, that final college season represents a lifestyle change, and in particular football players who struggle to find post-college options playing pro or semi-pro tackle football.
“But it does feel good to feel the culmination of everything coming together and finally getting to play with all the boys on the team, especially because we didn’t get a full season last year.”
Vazquez, who came out as bisexual, is one of only a handful of Division 1 college football players to come out publicly while they were playing. Over the last year-plus — since literally coming out of a closet — Vazquez said he’s received nothing but positive reinforcement. He hasn’t heard a single slur or anti-LGBTQ comment from people in football since coming out.
“It’s been a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” Vazquez said, mirroring the experiences of so many other out athletes who have found acceptance in sports. “My teammates are very accepting. Many of my teammates are more comfortable talking about it and it’s not really a taboo subject, which is great. And I feel like moving forward it will be more of a normalized thing. The team atmosphere is more accepting.”
Vazquez added that his teammates have checked their language since he came out. As we know, when athletes use gay slurs or say stupid things about LGBTQ people, they generally don’t mean “I hate gay people.” Yet still, Vazquez’s teammates have checked their language understanding that he may hear that language differently.
“That language has definitely gone away,” Vazquez said. “I feel like at the time when I came out a lot of my teammates came up to me apologizing and realizing they had said some things. Not meaning it, just joking like a lot of clocker rooms do. And this year I really haven’t heard it. I’ve addressed what it means, and people understand that. I don’t get homophobic comments at all on my team, and I don’t fear the jokes coming from my team.”
During their brief spring season, Vazquez never heard a slur or anti-LGBTQ comment from any of his opponents. Still, he’s thought about how he will handle it if he does.
“I would definitely tell my head coach,” he said, “because I know he’s an ally and I know he cares for me and he cares for the LGBTQ community. I don’t know how he would respond to it, but I know he has my back. And the administration at Fordham is amazing as well.”
Now Vazquez is working with a group of athletes called Fordham Connect, to help other athletes dealing with mental-health and other issues.
“I find it very rewarding knowing other people can feel like they’re not alone,” he said. “I’ve had a really good support system here at Fordham, but i can’t say that for every athlete at other places. I wish more people would reach out, so they know they have someone to talk to.”