It takes a lot of guts to play in the NFL. There’s the strict diet, the endless hours in the gym, the verbal barrage from coaches, and of course, the bone-jarring hits. Sure, the pay compensates these guys quite well, but long before these players land a substantial contract, there is that feverish desire to play the game they love, despite the punishment they take. It doesn’t really get more dedicated than that, does it?
Carl Nassib is one such player. The 28-year old played college football at Penn State where he started making a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball, eventually earning Big 10 Player of the Year honors. His talents did not go unnoticed by the Browns who ended up taking the then linebacker (now defensive end) in the third round of the 2016 draft. Nevertheless, the NFL is another level entirely and he only lasted two seasons in Cleveland before moving onto the Buccaneers, and currently with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Despite being somewhat of a journeyman in the league, Nassib remains true to himself and gives it his all, even if it has nothing to do with football, yet everything at the same time.
Today, Nassib publicly announced he is gay, becoming the first open and active gay player in the NFL. Before we continue, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know what he’s dealt with in keeping his sexuality a secret. As someone who’s straight, I can only sit back and listen to the experiences of those who have had to deal with the struggle of coming out and how they’ve dealt with the fear of possible repercussions. That is only elevated in Nassib’s case. Yes, there are his family and friends who may not have previously known, but in this scenario, there is also a locker room, an opposing team and the media.
Is he a hero? I don’t know, but he’s probably somebody’s hero. Is he the bravest player on the field? I don’t know that either, but he’s got courage, I’ll give him that. What I do know for certain is he is undeniably a pioneer in the league with his announcement today. Nassib effectively risked his career with the announcement, but sometimes being honest to those around you brings more satisfaction than any paycheck can offer.