Ryan Russell needed to be more careful.
That’s what the defensive end said he was told by a blogger after his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. That writer had put two and two together and figured out Russell was in a romantic relationship with a man.
He begged the man not to expose his secret.
“If the blogger outed me, I was sure that would kill my career, one that was supporting not just me, but my mother and grandfather,” Russell wrote in an essay published Thursday by ESPN.com. “He’d eradicate a childhood dream that was the product of years of work and sacrifice.
“After hearing me out, know what that blogger told me? That he would grant me this favor, but that I should be more careful.”
Years later, as a free agent who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, Russell is done being careful. He’d love to play in the NFL again, but he wants to make sure any team that signs him knows exactly who he is.
“My truth is that I’m a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man,” he wrote.
Russell was drafted in the fifth round by the Cowboys in 2015 but played in just one game that season. He moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year and played in 22 games, with six starts, over two years, registering three sacks and 20 tackles.
Russell wrote that he has previously opened up about his sexuality only to close friends and family. But after a recent workout with an NFL team, Russell wrote, he promised himself that was going to be “the last time I will ever interview for a job as anything other than my full self.”
“Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly,” Russell wrote. “I want to live my dream of playing the game I’ve worked my whole life to play, and being open about the person I’ve always been.
“Those two objectives shouldn’t be in conflict. But judging from the fact that there isn’t a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the NHL, brings me pause. I want to change that — for me, for other athletes who share these common goals, and for the generations of LGBTQ athletes who will come next.”