Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay male player in Division I basketball on Wednesday morning, telling his story to ESPN's Kate Fagan.
Gordon and UMass head coach Derek Kellogg subsequently had interviews on ESPN to discuss the announcement.
Fagan asked Gordon how he felt now that he had come out. He responded: "Awesome."
"For this to be happening right now, me coming out, it's an indescribable feeling, honestly," Gordon said. "I couldn't be any happier. I feel like I can fly."
He told his teammates exactly one week ago, after coming out to Kellogg.
Kellogg spoke first. "We're all here together, and we need to love each other for who we are," he said. "One of your family members, your brother, wants to let you know something about himself."
There was a pause. And then Kellogg, sensing that Gordon needed help, tried breaking the ice. "I wanted to let you all know I'm gay," the coach said. His players all looked at him, stunned. What?
Gordon took his cue and spoke up.
"No, he's not. But I am."
Gordon saw the recent announcements of NBA player Jason Collins and future NFL draft pick Michael Sam, and also had become friends with Wade Davis, a former NFL player and the executive director of You Can Play, which promotes "diversity and inclusion for all, including LGBT athletes and fans." According to Fagan, Davis introduced Gordon to Anthony Nicodemo, a high school coach who came out last year.
And then after Massachusetts lost to Tennessee in the Round of 64, Gordon began to think about coming out.
"I was thinking about summer plans and just being around my teammates and how it was going to be," Gordon told Fagan. "I just thought, 'Why not now? Why not do it in the offseason when it's the perfect time to let my teammates know and everybody know my sexuality."
Shortly after the announcement, Kellogg took to Twitter to show his support for Gordon.
I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly.— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but most importantly, he is a wonderful human being.— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a coaching staff, a team and a family, we stressed to him...— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
that we support him in every way possible. Derrick is a first-class representative of this University...— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
and this program since he joined us and we are all very proud of him.— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
Gordon also spoke to OutSports about the struggles he has dealt with over the past few years, just trying to be himself while at the same time hiding what he was.
"It was the worst four years of my life," Gordon said. "It was torture. I was just going around faking my whole life, being someone I'm not. It's like wearing a mask because everyone else was wearing that mask.
"Now that I'm taking the mask off, people can finally see who I really am."
Gordon is a 6-foot-3 guard from Plainfield, N.J. He transferred from Plainfield to St. Patrick (N.J.) in high school before committing to Western Kentucky. After one season with the Hilltoppers, he wanted to be closer to home and transferred to Massachusetts. This past season, he averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Before the 2012-13 season, Jallen Messersmith of NAIA school Benedictine College came out and was believed to be the first openly gay male player in college basketball.