Kennedy McDowell was already out as a gay man when Colorado State recruited him for their football team. The defensive end from Frisco, Texas, was featured as a gay football player in Frisco Style magazine, draped in a rainbow Pride flag, ahead of his senior high school season last October.
In fact, he’d been out since eighth grade according to an article today in The Athletic about the broad diversity found on the CSU football team that features McDowell.
So when it came time for some official team photos earlier this summer, McDowell again draped the rainbow flag around his shoulders to express his pride in being an out gay man.
Yet through all of that, plus other social-media posts on Instagram and X that clearly showed McDowell was a gay football player in Division I’s FBS, no one in the media outside of Frisco picked up on it.
There’s always a place for someone, no matter what sport it is❤️ https://t.co/AcWd6Jsqao— Kennedy ”Mayhem” McDowell (@MayhemMcDowell) June 14, 2023
Coming out of high school, McDowell was ranked around the top 100 or top 150 2023 college recruits at his position across the country. He was one of the top-1,000 recruits at any position and a three-star recruit, as rated by 247Sports. According to ESPN, he had offers to play from Notre Dame, Kansas, Colorado, SMU and others.
He can ball.
And Colorado State was aware that he was gay when they signed him.
So how did no one in the media outside of Frisco pick up on this? When McDowell was so clearly publicly out as gay and out gay football players in major sports are still relatively rare?
Somehow the people who care didn’t pick up on it.
Outsports had not heard his name until mid-August. Outsports shares zero followers with McDowell on the social media site X (formerly Twitter) and only one on Instagram.
A major Division I college football recruit in the United States can be out in his life, on social media and on his team, and it doesn’t go beyond that social sphere. It speaks to the normalizing of gay men in America’s most popular sport.
Still, McDowell clearly wants to have an impact. He wants to make sure that other gay athletes in America’s most popular and “masculine” sport know that they can be who they are and be accepted.
“I want to be who I am,” McDowell told The Athletic. “And I want to inspire other people to be who they are, too.”
That has led him to talk more with the news media about who he is: a college football player at Colorado State who just happens to also be gay.
McDowell isn’t the first gay Division I football player to come out. Byron Perkins at Hampton University is now in his senior season. Xavier Colvin was previously out at Butler, and Mason Darrow was out and just “one of the guys” at Princeton.
The FBS has also seen out gay players, including Scott Frantz at Kansas State and My-King Johnson at Arizona. Michael Sam at Missouri and Dwight Slater at Stanford were out to players and coaches but not necessarily to the public and the media.
McDowell is just a freshman, but he’s also seen some action this season. And he’s got a shot to have a huge impact for the Rams both on and off the football field.