ORANGE, Calif. — Mitch Eby, a junior defensive end at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., has come out as gay, delivering a moving coming-out speech to his teammates on March 18 that sent them into applause.
One teammate called him his hero.
Eby’s speech, via Outsports:
“I came up here today to talk to you guys about something that I’ve been dealing with for quite a while. It’s something personal that I’ve always thought I could just bury away, but I can’t. We live life so worried about how other people view us that we forget about ourselves. I can no longer go on living in fear, repressing myself because of how society may view me. I can no longer lie to my friends, family and teammates. It’s time I lived life for myself for a change.
“With that being said, I am ready to share with you all that I am gay.
“It has taken me years to accept myself for who I truly am, so it’s irrational to expect everybody to unconditionally accept me right away. However, the one thing that I hope that I can count on from each of you, my teammates, is your respect. Your respect as a friend, your respect as a teammate, and your respect as a man.
“Being gay may be something that defines me, but it does not limit me. It is such a small part of who I am. I am the same person you all know, no different than before. I’m still the kid that is obsessed with pretty much anything having to do with sports, I’m still the kid that some of you love to call stupid nicknames like ‘mom’ and ‘hot dog,’ and I’m still someone who will continue to go out there every day and push myself and push my teammates to be the best football team around. I am your teammate, I am your classmate and I am your brother. And I know that my brothers will continue to stand by my side, no matter what.”
Eby is the first active college football player to publicly come out as gay. Michael Sam declared he was gay after his college football career ended, three months before he heads to an NFL team. In January, Conner Mertens became the first active college football player to publicly declare he is bisexual.
In fact, it was Mertens who Eby reached out to for support before coming out to his team.