Landon Foster, a former punter at the University of Kentucky, has come out as gay.
In an article for OutSports on Wednesday, Foster explained he was publicly coming out with the hope of potentially helping and inspiring others:
"I am sure I will receive some backlash for writing this, but if there is one person it helps, then it will be worth it. I have been through hell, especially during my college years, trying to come to grips with who I am while also representing my university and football team. I was representing these institutions in a state that garnered national attention for anti-LGBT sentiment just days after I had come out to my parents, weeks before my senior season, and ultimately leading to my departure from the sport that I always envisioned as being a part of my life."
Foster also noted his junior and senior years in college "were filled with constant feelings of anxiety and inferiority" because of a number of high-profile stories on LGBTQ rights around the country, including Michael Sam coming out and Kentucky district clerk Kim Davis refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
"For the first time in my life, I didn't know how to feel," he wrote. "I didn't know what I was supposed to do or say. Surely I should take a stand and defend what I believe to be true."
Foster says he eventually found a way to enjoy his various interests without worrying about how he would be perceived:
"I thought it wasn't possible to enjoy both the macho world of sports and the more artistic form of writing. I couldn't be an SEC football player and like photography. I couldn't be masculine and enjoy wine. I couldn't be gay and enter the business world. I was supposed to be listening to Lil' Wayne, not Shawn Mendes.
"But I've learned it is possible to marry all of those likes and identities. They are not mutually exclusive."
The 24-year-old Foster played at Kentucky from 2012 to 2015. He was named to the Freshman All-SEC team in 2012 after averaging 42.9 yards per punt.