Not many people may have heard of former Wisconsin and Kansas University offensive lineman Brad Thorson until now. According to OutSports Monday, Thorson decided to use the Fourth of July holiday to declare his own independence as a gay man. Although an NFL team never drafted Thorson, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals and was with the team for their 2011 training camp before breaking his foot and being placed n injured reserve.
At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Thorson was ranked as the 24th best center going into the draft, but because of his injury he never got the chance to actually play in a regular season game and eventually decided to leave football and pursue future endeavors. Although he is not currently playing in the NFL, his story is still one he felt was worth sharing. In his blog post titled “Seeing Through the Fog,” Thorson talks about his struggle with uniting his two identities as a athlete and a gay man.
In his blog he wrote, “I’ve been told many times that the process of coming out is cathartic. Yet since coming to terms with my sexuality, I found it arduous and unnecessary. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. So today, I’m putting it in writing and not looking back. I’m gay. I’m also an athlete. For years, I struggled to unite these two identities in my own mind. Not until after my professional athletic career came to an end did I allow myself to understand my sexuality. Now, three years later, I’m finally ready to share that with people.”
The 26-year-old Thorson cited that his inspiration to come out was influenced by St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam and NBA veteran center Jason Collins. The stories they shared revealed emotions and fears he was familiar with and their coming out process fueled his own bravery to share with the world who he is. Sam is currently the only openly gay player in the NFL and could be the first to play in a regular season game, but as Thorson proved, there could be others who are keeping quiet. According to some former NFL players like Dion Sanders, those players do exist.
Thorson, who also played on the 12-1 Wisconsin team before transferring to Kansas, said he hopes his story reaches other athletes find their own acceptance. He told Outsports, “I didn’t know there was anyone else like me when I was growing up. Reading about Brian Sims talking about being out to his teammates and playing for the national championship, it made me feel like there was someone out there who was like me. I know there are other kids out there struggling, and I hope some of them can relate with me on some things and make them feel more comfortable with who they are.”
The former NFL prospect said that he did receive support from former teammates once he revealed his sexuality and said that his only regret was not coming out sooner. If it wasn’t for a foot injury in the summer of 2011, Brad Thorson could be an active openly gay NFL player. Why does this matter? Because every story helps someone out there living in a closet of fear and every journey helps a person realize that there is a world of acceptance out there waiting for them.