Former NFL offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan announced he is gay in a story published by SB Nation’s Outsports on Tuesday.
O’Callaghan told Cyd Zeigler of Outsports that playing football helped him hide his sexuality. He also detailed his addiction to painkillers and how he contemplated suicide after his NFL career ended. O’Callaghan said he wanted to share his story to help other struggling gay people.
“As long as there are people killing themselves because they are gay, there is a reason for people like me to share my story and try to help,” O’Callaghan told Outsports.
“ . . . People need to understand that we are everywhere. We’re your sons, your daughters, your teammates, your neighbors,” O’Callaghan said. “And honestly, even some of your husbands and wives. You just don’t know it yet.
O’Callaghan played at California, blocking for future NFL stars Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch. The Patriots selected O’Callaghan in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played six seasons as an offensive tackle with the Patriots and Chiefs, appearing in 51 games and making 20 starts.
“In high school, football turned into a way to go to college,” O’Callaghan said. “In college, football was a great cover for being gay. And then I saw the NFL mainly as a way to keep hiding my sexuality and stay alive.”
O’Callaghan said the Patriots’ winning culture helped hide that he was gay.
“All you are there to do is whatever it takes to win,” O’Callaghan said. “Distractions were not allowed. Everyone on the team had a job, knew their job and really focused on doing that. As little comfort as it did bring, it did help.”
According to the Outsports story, O’Callaghan went to the training room after every Patriots practice to drink coffee as an excuse to avoid showering with his teammates. The Outsports story also said O’Callaghan couldn’t recall a time during his NFL career when he heard a gay slur.
O’Callaghan’s career ended in 2011 during training camp with the Chiefs because of injuries.
Pain from his injuries and no longer having football to protect his sexuality forced O’Callaghan to start abusing painkillers. The Outsports story said he also was planning suicide around this time. According to Outsports, O’Callaghan had a cabin near Kansas City with a number of guns and had written a suicide note. But a Chiefs trainer and drug counselor helped O’Callaghan get clean.
O’Callaghan also privately revealed he was gay to Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli after the 2011 season. That conversation helped O’Callaghan come out to family and friends.
“It’s not always easy being honest,” O’Callaghan said, “but I can tell you it’s much easier and more enjoyable being yourself and not living a lie.”