Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan came out as gay in an interview with Outsports published Tuesday, and said he considered suicide after his football career.
O’Callaghan said he had planned to commit suicide when he stopped playing pro football in 2011, after five years that included being a lineman for the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. The 33-year-old discussed struggles from growing up in Redding, California, to suffering multiple shoulder injuries that led him to taking too much Vicodin before his career was cut shot.
“I was abusing painkillers, no question,” O’Callaghan told Outsports. “It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay. I just didn’t worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin. I just didn’t worry.”
By 2011, O’Callaghan said he was spending around $400 a day on drugs and had invested another $70,000 into building a small cabin on his property outside of Kansas City where he intended to eventually end his life.
“I started spending all my money to put myself in a position where it would be impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to back out of killing myself,” he said.
O’Callaghan was training at the Chiefs facility when the team’s head trainer, David Price, noticed that he wasn’t himself.
“David saw the pain pills as the problem, and they were,” the former lineman explained. “But the real problem was why I was abusing them. And it wasn’t just the injuries.”
He was referred to counselor Susan Wilson, to whom he first came out as gay.
“All I had ever done was think how bad the reaction would be,” O’Callaghan said. “It takes a lot more strength to be honest with yourself than it does to lie. It took a while to build up that strength to even tell her. You have to build up trust with someone. Just telling her was like a huge weight off my shoulders.
“Was it great at the beginning?” he continued. “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.”
“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,” he said. “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.”
His brave move has already sparked a positive reaction on social media:
An amazing story. (And one that makes me proud to be a Chiefs fan.)https://t.co/76zy7HIqzM
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) June 20, 2017
Inspiring story of a CA native's difficult, rewarding journey and those who have stood by him.
Thank you Ryan.https://t.co/wnNS2OJk6t
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 20, 2017
Scott Pioli in the span of a year had one player come out to him then another commit suicide in front of him https://t.co/guRVxXoxKH
— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) June 20, 2017
— Cyd Zeigler (@CydZeigler) June 20, 2017
"Ryan O’Callaghan’s plan was always to play football and then, when his career was over, kill himself." What a story. Wow. https://t.co/wW83bqOiYp
— Smokin' Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) June 20, 2017
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) June 20, 2017
While in the NFL, Ryan O’Callaghan faced down 300-pound opponents. Yet, the bravest thing this ex-Kansas City Chie… https://t.co/1LQ7UCjmMi
— Luca Forzin (@Luca_Forzin) June 20, 2017
Read the full interview with Outsports here.