It seems only a matter of time until the NFL has its first openly gay player -- ex-Ravens linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo, an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage equality, hinted earlier this offseason that a group of four current NFL players may come out as a group in the near future.
But the wait for that trailblazer would end should any team sign former Middle Tennessee State kicker Alan Gendreau.
Gendreau played for the Blue Raiders from 2008-2011, hitting 157 of 160 extra points and 46 of 62 field goals; his 295 points are the most scored by any player in the Sun Belt Conference since 2000. He went undrafted last year (as is the case for just about all college kickers) and failed to latch on with an NFL team.
Per SBNation's Outsports, Gendreau is hoping this offseason proves more fruitful:
"Right now, looking back when I’m 40, I can’t say I gave it my best shot," Gendreau said. "I can’t say I really tried to make it into the NFL. Last year I did it half-assed. If I don’t give it everything I have now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life."
But Gendreau landing a tryout would hold far more significance than the usual swarm of undrafted free-agent signings. Gendreau would be the first openly gay player to dot an NFL roster, perhaps even laying the foundation for other players to publicly reveal their sexual orientation.
The landscape for such a sea change in the NFL still may be a rocky one. This past Super Bowl week, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver was chastised after commenting that he could not be on a team with a homosexual player. And just a few days ago, Kerry Rhodes adamantly denied being gay after photos (and later, alleged text messages) indicating a possible relationship between Rhodes and his former assistant surfaced, perhaps further underlining what a tricky situation this is within NFL circles.
Gendreau, though, never hid his sexual orientation from his college teammates and has been out since the age of 15, according to Outsports. All the cards would be on the table should Gendreau land with an NFL team -- and many people believe that the league is more ready than ever for such a groundbreaking moment.
"His sexual orientation is not going to matter one bit," said super agent Leigh Steinberg, who has represented the likes of Hall of Famers Warren Moon, Troy Aikman and Thurman Thomas, among others. "The only thing that matters is if he can put that ball between those goal posts. If he can do that, and if he can do it consistently, he’ll have a shot at the NFL."
"It's totally legit that he can get into the league," said Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who has been an outspoken proponent of LGBT rights. "Place-kicking is all about doing this one specific skill set. And if you can do that, you can make it whether you’ve been out of football for one year or 10 years."
With the draft occurring Thursday through Saturday, teams likely will hold off on free-agent signings until at least Saturday night. Gendreau's dream of an NFL opportunity, then, is on hold. So, too, is the potential arrival of the league's first openly gay player.