Former Kansas City Chief comes out as gay, credits organization - KCTV5

Former Kansas City Chief comes out as gay, credits organization for saving his life

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Kansas City Chiefs guard Ryan O'Callaghan, right, sits on the bench with teammates during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009 in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won the game 27-24. (AP) Kansas City Chiefs guard Ryan O'Callaghan, right, sits on the bench with teammates during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009 in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won the game 27-24. (AP)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Ryan O’Callaghan had two lifelong secrets.

He was gay and he wanted to kill himself.

But now, the former national-caliber defensive tackle is sharing his story in the hopes that other people going through the same thing know they are not alone.

In an article garnering national attention, the former Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots player became member of a small group of men who played in the National Football League and were openly gay.

O’Callaghan’s coming out is making waves like that of former University of Missouri player Michael Sam’s announcement.

Sam, who never played a regular season game for the NFL, came out months before the draft in 2014.

O’Callaghan came out to one person during his time in football; encouraged by a woman who’d been working with football players for nearly 20 years.

The lady and the lineman

“He was thinking about killing himself but he would not reveal why,” Dr. Susan B. Wilson said about her first few sessions with the Redding, Calif. native more than five years ago.

Wilson, who was paired with the Chiefs through a program supported by the NFL, now works for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

O’Callaghan, who is back in Redding, met with Wilson for two years.

Only after support staff in the Chiefs’ organization saw a change in the 6-season veteran after his last time on the field in the 2011 preseason did he get help.

Wilson said O’Callaghan was abusing prescription painkillers for a shoulder injury.

The medication and the secrecy made for a lethal mix for the man who grew up in a conservative northern California town.

“Being gay is nothing to kill yourself about. I said, however right now, you don’t believe that,” Wilson said. 

For a majority of his life, O’Callaghan saw football as a refuge; a place to hide his truth.

Staying in football delayed his life-ending plan and Wilson knew that so the two made a plan which required O’Callaghan to trust in his truth.

Starting from the top

At the end of the 2011 season, after staying firmly put on the injured reserve list and seeing the end of his football career approaching, O’Callaghan approached the person he told Wilson he trusted.

Then 27 years old, O’Callaghan had a long-standing relationship with Scott Pioli.

The two came from the Patriots’ organization years earlier and had become friends during their time together.

“We talked about it beforehand,” Wilson said about her client’s decision to go to then Chiefs’ General Manager Pioli.

By all accounts, Pioli’s reception was generous and accepting.

“Ryan was courageous enough to not only seek help but use the help he received,” Wilson said.

But their time together didn’t end there. They two spent months working together. After telling his family, O’Callaghan came out in 2014 during a speech at a sports hall of fame induction.

This is the first time he’s shared his internal struggle publicly.

“(He wants his) story to be known in the hopes it will help another athlete who is struggling with the same thing,” Wilson said about O’Callaghan’s reasoning.

The ‘why’ not the ‘how’

Outsports, the LGBT magazine that originally told O’Callaghan’s story, correlated the numbers for gay athletes in the NFL.

As of June 21, 2017 there are only 11 players in the organization who have come out. Far fewer, 7 including O’Callaghan, have seen time on the field.

Wilson, who counseled other gay players during her time with the NFL, said male-dominated sports can be uninviting places for personal revelations.

“It is definitely not friendly to LGBT people.”

Wilson and O’Callaghan know there are more gay players in national football than the numbers show. If you or someone you know is considering suicide and needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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