Former NFL player Davis shares coming out experience
Former NFL cornerback Wade Davis spoke on campus Wednesday night about his experience of becoming open to family, friends and teammates about his homosexuality. He is one of five former NFL players to publicly come out.
Davis, 36, was signed by the Tennessee Titans in 2000 as an undrafted free agent and later played for the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins. However, Davis never made an NFL 53-man roster and spent most of his professional football time as an NFL Europe League defensive back in Berlin and Barcelona.
The event was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center. Wildcat Events Board Speakers Director Kevin Mauerman and Co-Director of LGBTQ Student Affairs Chris Sogge, introduced Davis.
“I want to set some ground rules,” Davis said after his opening statement. “First, there are no ground rules. Second, this is not a lecture, this is more of a conversation so I promise we’re going to have some fun today.”
Amy Johnson / The Daily Wildcat Wade Davis, former NFL corner back, shares his personal accounts of being a gay man in football. Wade has played for the Titans, Seahawks and Redskins.
Davis began his life story by admitting he was a “mama’s boy.” He said he found football when he was 7 but after games would watch soap operas with her.
A popular football game he would play with friends as a kid was called, “smear the queer.” In the contest, the “queer” had to grab the ball and score while the other players tried tackling him.
At the time, Davis said he had no idea what being queer meant.
“It was funny that the ‘queer’ was probably the most courageous person,” Davis said, “but that’s what I learned at 7, what you did to ‘queer’ people – you smeared them.”
Davis said his first time being attracted to someone of the same sex was when he was a sophomore in high school.
“I remember sitting in class and a kid who walked in — I was thinking, ‘Wow, he’s hot!’” Davis said. “Then I said ‘Woah, woah, woah what was that?’ And I couldn’t stop looking at him.”
He said he told himself it was not an option to be gay because of his standing as a high school jock. In an attempt to feel better about himself, Davis bullied other students he viewed as different, wore oversized clothes and dated a girl.
Davis admitted he was jealous of those he picked on in high school because they had the courage to be themselves.
His first sexual encounter with another man was at Weber State in Utah. After going on a fishing trip with one of his classmates, they kissed in a car. Davis said he immediately requested to go home and never talked to his classmate again.
“He made it real for me,” Davis said. “I could no longer tell myself that I wasn’t gay because I kissed this guy and I enjoyed it.”
Once he became an NFL prospect, Davis said he desperately tried masking his homosexuality by dating a woman. However, when his offensive line coach at Weber State was asked by a scout from the St. Louis Rams if Davis was a “ladies man,” the response was, “no.”
With his homosexuality still kept private, Davis’ brief NFL career came to an end after he tore his ACL and dislocated his kneecap playing for the Redskins. After spending some time in Colorado, he settled down in New York City.
After joining a gay flag football league, Davis entered into a serious relationship with one of his teammates for more than a year. However, they are no longer together.
At first, Davis’ mother struggled with his sexual orientation, but he said she now has a positive outlook, even calling his former partner her “son.” Davis said his father still needs time to accept it.
Davis also said that every high school, college and professional teammate has reached out to him in support.
“Love is part of football,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of passion, community and family. And you will never find a team that’s successful if they’re not a family. And sports is one space with people of all different classes, races, religion and they all get along for one purpose.”
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo