Ex-Nebraska Kicker Eric Lueshen Says He Was Openly Gay During Playing Career

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2014

Nebraska cheerleaders run with flags at Memorial Stadium after a score against Southern Mississippi in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Michael Sam broke an important glass ceiling on Sunday, announcing to the public in a New York Times article by John Branch that he's gay and that he had told his teammates at Missouri back in August.

Following his lead, former Nebraska place kicker Eric Lueshen went on 93.7 The Ticket, a local radio show in Nebraska, and announced the same thing: that he's gay and that his teammates had known about it when he played.

Here's a link, via Austin K. Kim of ABC 17 in Columbia, Mo.:

Lueshen played for the Huskers from 2003 to 2005 without seeing the field much before having his career cut short by back surgery.

According to his official team bio, he was a two-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's academic honor roll and was named to the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team in 2005 for his work doing community outreach.

Here's the matter-of-fact way he says he came out to his teammates (h/t to Deadspin for the transcriptions):

Two of my really good friends on the team, Sean Hill and Corey McKeon, asked me at lunch one day, "We were just wondering if you were gay." I very honestly said, "Yes, is that a problem?" They were like, "Oh no, that's really cool. We all thought that you were, and we just wanted to know."

However, Lueshen did say that certain assistant coaches "made it very clear" that he was unwelcome and that tacit gestures made him feel the same way:

Once everyone found out, several coaches made it very clear to me that I wasn't welcome. I would say the majority of how they made it known that I was unwelcome was through non-verbal communication—body language, looks—but there was definitely some verbal things at times.

On the other hand, former Nebraska head coach and current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan was very accepting of Lueshen, who remembered "how much [Callahan] respected me as a person."

For the most part, Lueshen made it sound like his sexual orientation didn't destroy his locker-room experience. He didn't corrupt the culture, feel ostracized or make enough people uncomfortable that he was forced to leave.

He called his overall experience "positive."

What's more, Lueshen came out to his teammates more than a decade ago and we're only hearing about it now. As was the case with Sam, his teammates had the discretion to refrain from "outing" him—both then and in the many years that followed.

Certain anonymous NFL-types might feel like the league is not ready to accept an openly gay player, but Sam and Lueshen are proof that college football already is and has been since the early 2000s.

Why should the pros be so much different?


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT