Former Nebraska kicker Eric Lueshen said his teammates knew of his sexual orientation while he was a member of the team and they welcomed him.
After Missouri DE Michael Sam revealed he is gay on Sunday, much discussion has ensued around how teams would handle an openly gay player. Sam told his Missouri teammates in August and said he had no issues with his teammates.
Lueshen, who redshirted in 2004 and suffered a career-ending injury in 2005, told radio station KNTK that he came out as a high school junior and was so open with his teammates that he took a male date to the athlete formal.
He was at Nebraska during the transition from the Frank Solich to Bill Callahan era. He said that there were members on each coaching staff who weren't as accepting as his teammates were, but noted that Callahan himself, now an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys, was very accepting.
"However I'd say Callahan's coaching staff was overall more accepting," Lueshen said.
He said that there was some initial apprehension amongst some teammates, but the ones he feared turned out to be ones that supported him.
"I've had former teammates at the time approach me and they're like 'Lueshen, I was a homophobe when I initially got here and I was so scared to even meet you and be around you, and I had thought 'Oh I'm going to kick his butt first time I see him.' But they're like 'After I got to know you,' they're like 'you're just a cool guy.'"
And in the end, I would be out with some teammates and be approached by other teammates that initially were some of the guys that I was scared of, thinking, 'If anyone's going to kick my butt here, it's one of these guys.' I was approached by those guys telling me 'Lueshen, I want you to know that I completely accept you. You're a cool dude and if anyone ever says anything bad about you, I have your back.'
So that really meant a lot to me. And to see people's minds open up and change was a bigger thing in the long run than me ever seeing the field and playing."
Stories like Lueshen's will likely start to trickle out over the next few months. While Sam may be on track to become the first openly gay active NFL player, many gay NFL players have come before him. If Lueshen's story and the acceptance of Sam amongst his teammates are the start of a trend, the consternation of Sam's fit in the NFL will be widely overblown.
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