Alan Gendreau says he’s not out to make history. He just wants to make an NFL roster.
Say this for the former Middle Tennessee State kicker, though: He’s already broken new ground in the way he has gone about it.
Gendreau made national headlines earlier this week when he was profiled by Outsports, a website that covers gay issues in athletics. In the story, which drew attention from The New York Times and other significant national media outlets, he revealed that he had been openly gay since high school and throughout his college career at Murfreesboro.
There’s no telling how many NFL players have kept quiet about being gay in order to protect their careers. A few have come out after the fact, including players such as David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo, and prospects such as Wade Davis, who spent a brief amount of time with the Tennessee Titans.
Gendreau looks to be the first to attempt to mention his sexuality as he tries to secure an NFL career.
Whether by design or a happy accident, there are a lot more people who know his name now than did a week ago. Chances are he was mentioned in the meeting rooms and locker rooms of every NFL team in the last few days.
That one story, that one decision to go from “out” to “front and center” in the increasingly discussed issue of homosexuality in team sports did far more for his name recognition than any field goal or extra-point he ever kicked for the Blue Raiders. Keep in mind, by the time he finished college he had kicked enough of each that he was the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leading scorer.
It is not easy to get a job as a kicker in the NFL. Basically, there are just 32 of them, and when somebody gets a gig he often is loathe to let go of it. Jason Hanson recently retired after 21 years with the Detroit Lions. The Titans just gave 35-year-old Rob Bironas a new contract.
It would be foolish to expect that anyone is going to give Gendreau a job just because he’s gay. It is reasonable to think, however, that if he is one of three or four under consideration to fill a spot in training camp, the fact that personnel people have heard his name could make the difference.
There’s also the possibility that some team that wants to generate some headlines or try to reach a largely untapped market could invite him to training camp simply for the PR value. (The 49ers, who had to deal with cornerback Chris Culliver’s homophobic remarks before the Super Bowl, would be an interesting match).
OK, so maybe there’s a certain cynicism in that interpretation, but Gendreau himself noted that even though he was ”out” throughout his college career, his only interview on the subject during that time was when he was a freshman — and it was done anonymously. At that time, he had a spot on a team and he wanted to keep it. So he didn’t make waves.
Now he’s making waves — possibly because he wants to get a spot, and coming out in a high-profile fashion might just offset the fact that he’s been out of the game for a year.It’s no secret that the NFL is a hyper-competitive industry. Players and hopefuls try a lot of different things to make a name for themselves.
“My whole thing in this is just to help anybody who is struggling with coming out,” Gendreau told The New York Times. “I want people to know that I didn’t have a problem with it, and they shouldn’t, either.”
Until now, no one ever imagined being gay could bring an athlete positive attention. In fact, the universally held belief was that it was something that needed to be kept a secret.
Whether he wants to or not, Alan Gendreau might just go down in history as the guy who changes all of that.