Carl Nassib, NFL’s first openly gay active player, retires after seven seasons

Ethan Miller/New York Daily News/TNS

Carl Nassib, who made history as the NFL’s first openly gay active player, is retiring after seven seasons, he announced Wednesday.

The defensive end, 30, played in 99 regular season games for the Browns, Buccaneers and Raiders, recording 25.5 sacks, 187 tackles and four forced fumbles.

“Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined,” Nassib wrote in an Instagram post. “I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.”

Nassib came out as gay before the 2021 season when he was a member of the Raiders. He appeared in 13 games that year. Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay before being drafted by the Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, but he never played in an NFL game.

“I wanted to stay ahead of the narrative,” Nassib said during a 2021 “Good Morning America” interview with former Giants star Michael Strahan. “I just wanted to own the story and make sure I did it on my terms. One of my biggest fears was that I would only be remembered for being gay. I just wanted to show that it really doesn’t matter, your sexual orientation.”

The Browns made the 6-foot-7 Nassib a third-round pick out of Penn State in 2016. He played two seasons with Cleveland before joining the Buccaneers, where he turned in his best statistical years. His 6.5 sacks with Tampa Bay in 2018 were a career high, and he followed that up with six sacks and a career-best 34 tackles in 2019.

Nassib then spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Raiders before returning to the Buccaneers last year. He appeared in 13 games with Tampa Bay in 2022, recording 3.5 sacks.

“It was always my dream to play in the NFL, even as a walk-on [at Penn State], and I really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet,” Nassib wrote in his retirement announcement.

Nassib is the younger brother of Ryan Nassib, who played quarterback at Syracuse before being drafted by the Giants in 2014. The elder Nassib spent two seasons with the Giants, serving as a backup to Eli Manning.