It seems as if the floodgates are opening for gay athletes. We had Jason Collins’ announcement a few weeks back, and Robbie Rogers’ announcement just recently, both of which broke the ice for professional gay athletes.
Now, we have the announcement that the first college athlete has come out as gay, and he is a player at a Catholic college. Jallen Messersmith is a guard on the basketball team at Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas, and he came out in an interview with Outsports.com. The 6 foot 8, 215 pound athlete, who was raised Mormon, has been accepted by both his teammates and the Catholic school’s administration:
” ‘He’s a very outgoing player and if you need an example of a hustler, it’s him,’ said Benedictine guard Brett Fisher, Messersmith’s teammate and best friend. ‘He’s doing the dirty work for the team. He’s getting the blocks on defense, he’s getting every rebound. We like him on the team.’ “
Messersmith was fourth in the nation in his division for blocked shots this past season.
According to Kansas.com, the school’s leader was also very supportive of the athlete:
School president Steve Minnis said he doesn’t expect anything to change on campus, where he says Messersmith is well-liked.
“ ‘I’ve had conversations with the coaches to make sure he was being treated with respect and sensitivity,’ Minnis said. ‘Our position always has been with Jallen is we love him as one of God’s children, and we want to make sure everything is positive for him.’
“ ‘We are a Catholic college, and we take our mission and values seriously,’ Minnis said. ‘Our duty as Catholics, straight from the church, is to treat everybody with respect and accept them for who they are.’ ”
Messersmith had support from his team leadership since 2012 when he told his coach that he was gay. Outsports.com reports:
“Messersmith decided to first tell his coach, Ryan Moody, at the start of fall semester 2012. ‘It was hard,’ he recalls of the conversation with his coach. Moody, however, took it in stride and offered unconditional support. The next day, Messersmith met with Moody and his two assistants.
” ‘They were there 100% for me,’ Messersmith said. ‘They said it would not make any difference in the way the team was run. And they wanted to make sure it wouldn’t change my experience at the school. That was awesome. After that, I felt like I could do anything.’ “
Outsports.com notes that Messersmith had already decided to go public even before Jason Collins’ historic announcement:
“Messersmith contacted Outsports about telling his coming out story prior to NBA player Jason Collins declaring he is gay (‘I think that’s awesome,’ he said about Collins). He appears to be the first gay men’s college basketball player to come out while still playing; Villanova’s Will Sheridan came out after he graduated. ‘When I came out, there was nobody in my sport I could’ relate to, Messersmith said about why he agreed to share his story. ‘I always wanted to put it out there and I had a great experience with it and I wanted to show people it could be fine.’ “
Messersmith is casual about being a celebrity, and offers advice to others considering coming out:
” ‘You’ve just got to be comfortable with yourself,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t very comfortable with myself for a long time and then when I was, if you put off the confidence and you are 100% comfortable when you tell someone, they will support you. They can’t, as much as they can try, drag you down. It’s all about you. It’s what you think. If you are comfortable with yourself, you can do anything.’
” ‘I’m definitely happy and content where I am right now. It’s awesome that I have the team support I do. It’s awesome that no one has said anything [negative] and I haven’t had anything change. I just feel really comfortable and it’s really nice.’ “
New Ways Ministry congratulates Jallen Messersmith for his courage and honesty, and we congratulate Benedictine College for standing up for the best ideals of the Catholic tradition by supporting their student-athlete.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry