The New Hampshire
By Susan Doucet
Friday, October 14, 2011
Student-athletes are everywhere on the UNH campus, but rarely are professional football players found in the MUB. As a part of UNH’s Coming Out Week, former NFL player Esera Tuaolo spoke to students Wednesday night about becoming one of the first professional football players to come out as gay.
UNH centers its Coming Out Week around National Coming Out Day, which is always October 11. Alliance, one of the organizations responsible for these events, is a “support group for LGBTQ+,” said Kelsey Myers, chair of Alliance.
Wednesday night’s event, Being True to Yourself with NFL Veteran Esera Tuaolo, was “a collaboration of a lot of different groups on campus,” Myers said.
Coming Out Week is held for “exposure to the group [Alliance] and to the issues [of the LGBTQ+ community],” said Nathan Laperle, Alliance program coordinator. Tuaolo addressed some of these issues in his talk.
Although Tuaolo was a defensive lineman who played professional football for nine years and played in a Super Bowl, he is happier now in retirement than he was playing football.
“I love what I do [now] because I get to go around the country and inform [people] about the LGBT community,” he said.
Throughout his career, Tuaolo kept his sexuality a secret, never telling a teammate in high school, college or the NFL. It wasn’t until two years after he retired that he first said he was gay, in an HBO Sports interview in 2002. Tuaolo said he retired because he no longer wanted to keep this secret and he wanted to be happy.
When Tuaolo came out as gay, he said it was like a huge burden was lifted. “I felt light as a feather,” he said.
Keeping his sexuality a secret hurt Tuaolo mentally and emotionally until he finally spoke the truth. He said that the HBO special “was probably the best thing [he] ever did in [his] life … otherwise [he] would be six feet under.”