“I don’t want to feel like I have to think about it anymore,” Maxen told Outsports in an exclusive interview. “I don’t want to feel like I have to lie about who I am seeing, or why I am living with someone else.
“I want to be vocal in support of people living how they want to live, but I also want to just live and not feel fear about how people will react.”
Maxen is believed to be the first-ever publicly out male coach in major American men’s pro sports.
He told Outsports that his journey has been a long one, but in the last year his personal network has risen up around him to show support for his coming out.
“It wasn’t until recently – and with the immense love and support of my family, my friends, colleagues and peers, and the courage and sacrifice from my partner – that I realized I have the right and responsibility to love and be loved, and that maybe sharing this will hopefully give someone else the strength to accept their own life and take control of their own story.”
Maxen’s partner is his boyfriend, Nick. The two have been dating for over two years.
With the Jaguars, he works with the offensive and defensive linemen on designing their full workout plan. That entails planning exercises, weights and recovery to achieve their goals. He also travels to games with the team.
Before Maxen, a couple of female assistant coaches in the NFL have been publicly out, most notably former San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers. Curt Miller is an out male coach in the WNBA.
Yet Maxen is, as far as Outsports is aware, the first publicly out male coach in a major American men’s pro sports league.
Before coaching, Maxen was a standout linebacker for Western Connecticut State University, a Division III program playing in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference where he earned first-team defense honors his senior season. He played all 30 games for the team his three years there, leading the team in tackles two seasons and finishing his career with 171 total tackles.
He told Outsports he was questioning his sexuality even in college, where he was also captain of the team for three seasons.
Now in the NFL, he said he is hopeful about the reaction Jaguars players will have to his truth. He’s confident his work ethic, personality and commitment to the team’s success will win over any doubters.
“I have a pretty good sense of humor,” he said. “So a lot of the guys I can joke with and not take anything personally.”
The Jaguars open training camp for rookies this Friday, and for the rest of the team next Tuesday.
Maxen originally contacted gay NFL player Carl Nassib in February 2022, who then connected Maxen with Outsports. At the time he was seeking advice as he charted a path to coming out and building acceptance of LGBTQ people in major American sports.
He said it’s been others in the Jaguars organization introducing and sharing their families at events and functions — while he’s felt the need to stay silent about his boyfriend — that has pushed him to now publicly share more of his personal life.
“You have other coaches who have significant others, and they’re talking about their significant others,” Maxen said. “And I felt guilty that I couldn’t do the same thing, that I was letting myself down.
“I want the person I’m with to be able to share that with me.”
He has wrestled with that personal frustration. At first he thought his anger about his need to stay silent was directed at others. He’s realized it was actually directed at himself.
“For a while I had such an anger for myself and hatred that I thought was from a fear of what others might think about who I am,” Maxen said. “But that wasn’t it. It was an anger and hatred of myself because I put myself in a life where I was living by other people’s rules and not by my own.
“And I was right to be angry at myself for thinking that I had to live in the image of anyone else.”
Recently he spent time with various high school friends — a bachelor party with football players, friends and other athletes back in Connecticut. His boyfriend Nick — an athlete himself — was in the area too, with some of his friends.
Maxen introduced Nick to his high school friends and shared more of his personal story with them.
“Why didn’t you just tell us earlier?”
It’s a refrain Outsports has heard many times. Our Out In Sports study in 2021 showed 95% of high school and college athletes coming out to teammates found responses that ranged from neutral to perfect.
As he’s shared his true self with former teammates, colleagues and people around the Jaguars and NFL, he’s realized the level of support is far higher than he had realized.
“In an environment that is diversifying, it is a privilege to work alongside Kevin who is hardworking, dedicated and thriving as a strength and conditioning coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars,” said Marcus Pollard, Jaguars Director of Player Development. Pollard is also a former NFL tight end, most notably with the Indianapolis Colts.
Brandon Linder, a center for the Jaguars for eight seasons who worked with Maxen his final year in the NFL, was effusive in his statement to Outsports about his former strength coach.
“Kevin was a big part in helping me prepare every Sunday during my last year in the NFL. He would write workouts for me with exercises that would help with my deficiencies, which helped me be the best version of myself on that field. Our friendship grew with the time spent working together and us sharing a lot of similarities on our views of life, being someone that just gets it.
“He understands what life is truly all about. That’s why I gravitated towards him.
“It was truly an honor and extremely humbling when I was one of the first people Kevin confided to about his sexuality. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been, not knowing what my reaction would be. I remember the day he told me I was so elated for him to get that off his chest.”
Linder also directed a message to Maxen:
“Kevin, I’m proud to call you a friend and excited to see what the future holds for you Kev. I know your story can help so many people. You the man! All shall be well!”
Jaguars owner Shad Khan praised Maxen.
“Kevin is a Jacksonville Jaguar through and through, and a key member of our football team and community,” he said, according to ESPN. “I look forward to seeing Kevin next week at training camp, and hope that he comes to work each day during camp and through the season feeling confident, free and at peace.”
Maxen isn’t new to being different from the crowd. The combination of his race, religion and sexual orientation make him well-versed in tackling issues of diversity and understanding.
“As a Black Jew who has dated both men and women, who has been a strength coach at the highest level of professional football, I’ve learned that how I look, what I believe in, and especially who I am physically or emotionally attracted to should not impact the way I or other people view my worth.
“And It should certainly not dictate what I feel I am capable of accomplishing.”
Media requests can be made through Jaguars communications coordinator Dylan Morton at email@example.com.