As a placekicker, Alan Gendreau isn’t accustomed to being the center of attention — but all that seems likely to change during the course of the next two days.
Starting Thursday, Gendreau, the former Middle Tennessee State kicker and Sun Belt Conference’s leading scorer, has the chance to do something unique from the rest of his peers — become the first openly gay male in a major American team sport.
At a time when the topic of gay athletes in professional sports has gained national attention, Gendreau is somewhat in uncharted waters. Despite reports in recent weeks that as many as four NFL players are prepared to publicly proclaim their homosexuality, none have yet to come forward.
The remoteness of the former Middle Tennessee State star’s situation has gained him notoriety from sports fans off the field, but his athletic prowess has spoken for itself.
According to reports from Outsports, the New York Jets are one of the teams expected to give Gendreau a tryout or add him to their roster using one of their draft picks.
But as groundbreaking as this could be for professional sports, the apparent sincerity of the kicker’s character makes his story something inspiring and worth cheering for.
In both sports and his personal life, Gendreau has been somewhat of an outcast.
Instead of adhering to the stereotypical image of an ordinary NFL prospect, Gendreau has been described as having an easygoing demeanor. In interviews, he’s been open about his deep religious faith and the fact he’s been openly gay to family and friends since he was 15 years old.
In the world of professional sports, these qualities make him an outsider — but potentially the perfect spokesperson to further his cause. Throughout his entire career, Gendreau has been up front about his sexuality — not out of publicity, but out of pride.
Instead of shielding his true self from his coaches, teammates or the national media, he has stayed true to himself. For people of all ages, his openness has served as defining proof that sexual orientation has made him no less able nor qualified to perform on a professional scale.
These qualities make him different, but that’s exactly what professional sports needs.
Despite not discriminating against any particular group, the fear gay athletes have to be open about their sexuality is apparent. Whether out of a fear of losing their job or being shunned, the notion of being a gay athlete has become a sort of untouchable topic players would prefer not to discuss.
It’s an unfortunate parameter scourging professional sports and a prejudice afflicting basic civil rights, but Gendreau has the potential to deliver change.
If drafted, Gendreau would be a reminder to everyone — gay or straight — you can achieve any goal you set your mind toward. He would serve as a progressive step toward universal acceptance in professional sports and reveal a new level of openness existent in the NFL.
Gendreau’s road to NFL success is just beginning and one likely to be a long and uphill journey.
But if a day comes when he is referred to solely for his skill and not his sexual orientation, his legacy will open the door to millions.