Arizona incoming freshman My-King Johnson will make history when he joins the team this summer. The defensive end will be the first openly gay scholarship player on a major college football team.
Johnson discussed his sexuality with the Arizona Daily Star in a feature posted Saturday. Johnson said he told those around him he was gay when he was 12, and Arizona knew about it when recruiting him. And, as it should be, nothing changed about his scholarship offer.
When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.
Now, the 17-year-old is an unintentional trailblazer.
“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson said about being open about his sexuality.
Former Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam publicly revealed he was gay when he was still at Mizzou. But Sam’s playing career was over when he went public in February of 2014. Sam did become the first openly gay player selected in the NFL draft when he was chosen by the now-Los Angeles Rams in the seventh round. However, Sam never played a down in a regular season NFL game.
Sam told his Mizzou teammates in the summer of 2013 and received unanimous support among them. Johnson’s gotten the same support from his high school teammates — most of them already knew when Johnson came out in middle school.
Johnson is a three-star recruit according to Rivals and part of an Arizona recruiting class that ranked No. 36 in the class of 2017.
As society makes more and more progress when it comes to acceptance, ideally stories about player sexuality become less and less notable. But given how few players have come out during their playing careers, Johnson is taking a big step.
And hopefully his decision, and a positive acceptance at Arizona over the next few years, will help more players be open about who they are.
– – – – – – –