For the first time, an active Division I NCAA men's basketball player has come out as gay. Wednesday morning, University of Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon talked with ESPN's Kate Fagan about what it was like to finally come out to his teammates.
"Coach started it off first. He said we should start it off funny, so he, 'I just wanted to let you all know that I'm gay.' So as soon as I said it, everyone wasn't surprised. ... It was all just like, 'All right, we're going to support you no matter what.'"
He told Fagan he feels like so much weight has been lifted, he could fly. And on Instagram Gordon wrote: "This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living...No more HIDING!!!...Just want to live life happy and play the sport that I love."
After the announcement Wednesday, UMass coach Derek Kellogg posted words of encouragement for his player. "I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly. He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but most importantly, he is a wonderful human being." (Via Twitter / @CoachKellogg)
And his coach isn't the only one. Gordon is receiving an outpouring of support — with his name trending No. 1 on Twitter across the county.
Even former University of Missouri lineman Michael Sam, who recently came out and could be the first openly gay NFL player in history, publicly reached out to Gordon. (Via TMZ)
On Twitter Sam wrote, "Many congratulations to you Derrick Gordon - you have so many in your corner and we're all proud and rooting for you #courage"
Gordon said he's also spoke with NBA player Jason Collins, who came out in August. (Via Sports Illustrated)
But Gordon made it clear to SB Nation, this announcement wasn't just about finding his freedom. "I want to give kids some courage and someone they can look up to. If I can come out and play basketball, then why can't they do it? I want to be able to help those people. I truly believe this year is going to be very special."
"I don't want my teammates to feel that I'm getting so caught up in the coming out stuff that I'm not really too worried about working out. ... That's not the case. ... I just hope that people will look at my story an get something out of it."
The sophomore says he wants to focus on helping lead his team to another NCAA tournament. This year, UMass was upset by Tennessee in the second round.