Former Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ryan Russell came out as bisexual in an interview published Thursday.
Russell, who is without a team, told ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz why he decided to make his sexuality public amid free agency:
"Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am? Not exactly. But withholding information is a form of deceit. And I want the next part of my career—and life—steeped in trust and honesty. During the season you spend more time with your team than with your own family; truth and honesty are the cornerstones of a winning culture. My truth is that I'm a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man.
"Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly. I want to live my dream of playing the game I've worked my whole life to play, and being open about the person I've always been."
The 27-year-old Texas native was a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys out of Purdue in the 2015 NFL draft.
After one season with Dallas, he was signed by the Bucs in September 2016. He spent two years in Tampa and played for the Buffalo Bills during the preseason last year. He's been a free agent since getting released by Buffalo last September.
Russell hopes his announcement can help pave the way for others in a similar position.
"But judging from the fact that there isn't a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the NHL, brings me pause," he said. "I want to change that—for me, for other athletes who share these common goals, and for the generations of LGBTQ athletes who will come next."
Russell registered 20 combined tackles and three sacks across 23 appearances (six starts) with the Cowboys and Bucs.
Now he's hoping for another opportunity to show he can make an impact in the NFL.
"I feel as though this could be a step toward that future," Russell told Arnovitz. "For myself, I'm not looking to be a symbol or media star. I just want to play ball for a team that knows me off the field and values me on it."
Just as importantly, the defensive lineman explained he wants to "dedicate my life to football without feeling like I can't dedicate my life to truth as well."