Former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan has come out as gay and opened up about his drug addiction and suicidal thoughts as a result of hiding his sexuality.
In an interview with Outsports, O’Callaghan explained he knew he was gay since junior high school. O’Callaghan, 33, says growing up around homophobic language scared him from telling the truth about his sexuality.
“If you’re a gay kid and you hear someone you love say ‘fag,’ it makes you think that in their eyes you’re just a fag too. That got to me a lot,” O’Callaghan says.
He decided to play football in high school as a way to hide that he was gay. Eventually, his skills would land him a five-year career in the NFL. O’Callaghan was drafted in 2006 from the University of California, Berkley for the Patriots. He would go on to play two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs before retiring due to injuries.
“In high school, football turned into a way to go to college,” he explained. “In college, football was a great cover for being gay. And then I saw the NFL mainly as a way to keep hiding my sexuality and stay alive.”
O’Callaghan admitted he developed an addiction to painkillers that helped him suppress his sexuality struggles. He also says he was contemplating suicide. After entering counseling, O’Callaghan began to get the help he needed to recover.
His counseling gave him the courage to come out to Chiefs GM and former Patriots personnel executive, Scott Pioli. Pioli was accepting and O’Callaghan began to open up to other close people in his life.
“Was it great at the beginning?” O’Callaghan says. “No. Did everyone totally understand what it meant to be gay? No. But they knew what my alternative was. I told people close to me that I planned on killing myself. So at that point, no one cared. They were just happy that I was alive.”
Now O’Callaghan wants his struggle to benefit someone else.
“As long as there are people killing themselves because they are gay, there is a reason for people like me to share my story and try to help,” O’Callaghan says. “It’s not always easy being honest, but I can tell you it’s much easier and more enjoyable being yourself and not living a lie.”