"I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly."
Free agent defensive end Ryan Russell is looking to return to the NFL and wants to move forward being more open about his life. In an interview with Outsports and a piece told to ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Russell announced that he is bisexual.
"Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly. 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," he told ESPN.
"Those two objectives shouldn't be in conflict," he added. "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."
Russell played for three seasons in the NFL after the Cowboys selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He spent his rookie season with Dallas before heading to the Buccaneers for another two. Russell saw the most playing time in 2017, when he played in 14 games and started seven for Tampa Bay. In 2018, he played in four preseason games with the Bills before undergoing surgery for a shoulder injury.
In his interview with Outsports, he said the topic of sexuality rarely came up in locker rooms and he "never felt unsafe" there.
"Being a bisexual individual and dating women publicly and dating men privately, I felt a duality in my life," he said. "It was easier to just blend into a locker room and blend into society."
Russell moved to Los Angeles after his shoulder surgery and is training to return to the NFL. He told ESPN that he worked out with a team in early August but didn't address his sexuality during meetings. He promised himself that teams would know more about him moving forward.
"This is the last time I will ever interview for a job as anything other than my full self. Out of love, admiration and respect, I want the next team to sign me valuing me for what I do and knowing who I truly am."