After a successful college football career, Middle Tennessee State grad Alan Gendreau is hoping to tackle the NFL draft.
If he does, he could become the first openly gay pro football player.
Gendreau, whose record-breaking career at MT ended with a rough senior season in 2012, has been out of the game for a few months. But as the all-time leading scorer in the Sun Belt Conference, he is ready to impress scouts in his push to the NFL.
"I didn’t have an agent, and I didn’t know how to get one," Gendreau told Cyd Zeigler in a profile for Outsports. "I felt stuck. I didn’t know what to do. I’d been competing since I was 3, and I started telling myself I needed a break from competition anyway."
"That was pretty dumb."
The 23-year-old Florida native was out to his teammates even as a freshman, but kept his sexual orientation fairly quiet for fear it would affect his professional prospects.
Now, as groups such as Athlete Ally are pushing for greater acceptance toward gays and working to change the heteronormative machismo of the sport, Gendreau wants to go pro without hiding who he is.
"His sexual orientation is not going to matter one bit," said Leigh Steinberg, an agent who has represented Warren Moon, Troy Aikman and Thurman Thomas, among others. "The only thing that matters is if he can put that ball between those goal posts. If he can do that, and if he can do it consistently, he’ll have a shot at the NFL."
Because Gendreau is coming in as a free agent -- and only a handful of teams are even in the hunt for a kicker -- his best shot will be an invitation to attend team activities in the coming months or training camp at the end of the summer.
Thanks to a major shift in public opinion to where most Americans believe gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable, Gendreau's chances will hinge on his ability as a kicker, not as a gay man.
"The NFL is a business, and they’re going to make business decisions above all else," said Wade Davis, a former NFL player who came out after his retirement. "They want the best players who can help them win.
"If this kid can kick 50-yarders consistently, then they’ll have him. But if he can’t, they won’t. Him being gay won’t have anything to do with it."