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In an article on Outsports.com for SBNation, former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan came out as a gay athlete who strongly considered suicide once he retired from the NFL.
O'Callaghan told Outsports, "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."
Drafted by the Patriots in 2006 out of the University of California, O'Callaghan played two years at right tackle, appearing in 26 games and collecting seven starts along the way.
He ended his career after two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The article details how he grew up in conservative Redding, Calif., and how football was a way of shielding his sexuality from others.
"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."
He described his experience in Foxboro as a positive one.
"All you are there to do is whatever it takes to win," O'Callaghan said. "Distractions were not allowed. Everyone on the team had a job, knew their job and really focused on doing that. As little comfort as it did bring, it did help."
Things took a turn for the worse, according to the article, once he began abusing pain-killers. O'Callaghan talked about killing himself.
"I was abusing pain-killers, no question," he said. "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."
However, after coming out to Chiefs general manager and former Patriots personnel executive Scott Pioli, O'Callaghan became more at ease with his feelings about his sexual orientation.
"Being gay wasn't just a small detail in my life, it consumed it," he said. "It's all I would think about. But now that I have come out, it rarely crosses my mind. Yeah, I'd go about my daily life in football, but thinking about hiding it and hoping no one finds out and being ready for any situation was exhausting."
O'Callaghan feels sharing his story can help others from experiencing the depth of desperation he did.
"As long as there are people killing themselves because they are gay," he said, "there is a reason for people like me to share my story and try to help."
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