Rick Stockstill knew kicker Alan Gendreau was gay.
The Middle Tennessee State coach said, though, that the place-kicker's sexual orientation did not affect his treatment of the player.
“It was never an issue and I did not treat him any differently than any other player,” Stockstill told The City Paper on Wednesday. “Our players didn’t treat him differently. Alan was very professional in everything he did. He was a really good player for us. He was not a distraction whatsoever on this team. He was a football player. He was a student-athlete in my opinion.”
Gendreau made national headlines on Tuesday when he told Outsports he wants to make an NFL roster. If he does, he’ll be the first openly gay player on an NFL team.
From 2008-11, Gendreau made 44 of 62 field goals for the Blue Raiders and finished his career as the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leading scorer with 295 points.
“I knew it. But I never addressed it with Alan because I didn’t think it needed to be because I wasn’t going to treat him any differently than I was anybody else,” Stockstill said. “I’m sure our players they probably knew or probably thought so. I don’t know, you’d have to ask them. In my dealings, Alan was a student-athlete in my eyes. To me it wasn’t any different than this guy is Baptist, this guy is Catholic. I don’t look at our players that way. I look at them as men, as student-athletes, as football players. That is how I approached it with Alan.
“All Alan wanted to do was win. He wanted to kick well. He wanted to be a good teammate. He worked hard in everything he did. Our players knew how hard he worked. They knew how good a kicker he was. They knew he won games for us. He was not treated any differently than any other player in that locker room.”
According to Outsports, Gendreau has been openly gay since high school. The 23-year-old from Apopka, Fla., was the first openly gay player Stockstill had coached in more than 30 years as an assistant and head coach.
“Our football team was not affected by it because it was never an issue with Alan,” Stockstill said. “He was never out of line. He respected other players’ space. There was never anything that was uncomfortable. I don’t know if that is the right word. But he never … we never made this thing an issue. We were there to win football games. He was there to kick the ball. He was there to graduate and go to school and that is what he did.
“I think society is maybe becoming more acceptable to this than maybe what it was 20, 25, 30 years ago. … I respect Alan for having the courage to come out and do this.”
Gendreau used Stockstill as a reference for his current job at a real estate firm in Washington, D.C., where he has spent the last year. He also was in Murfreesboro a couple weeks ago and visited his former coach after a spring practice. Talk centered on his family and how his current job was going.
Gendreau’s plans to get an NFL tryout didn’t come up.
His biggest hurdle in making an NFL team, Stockstill thinks, will be his leg strength on kickoffs. Though Gendreau kicked a 55-yard field goal, the second-longest in the Sun Belt, Stockstill said he struggled to boot kickoffs deep into the end zone.
The veteran coach called that a bigger “red flag” to NFL teams than a poor start to his senior season in which he missed four of his opening five kicks.
Stockstill said production will matter more to NFL teams than Gendreau’s sexual orientation.
“Me, personally, I don’t think it will help. I don’t think it will hurt,” Stockstill said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with his ability to play in the NFL. The NFL is a bottom-line business. It is a job. It is men’s livelihood. If he can kick that ball, put it the end zone, if he can put it through those uprights that is all they care about. It is a bottom-line business. They want to win. I think it will have zero effect. I think a bigger issue he is going to have is just being out of it for a year.”