There Are Six Openly Gay College Football Players This Year & It's A Record

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Even at a time when it seems like civil rights may be regressing for marginalized people in American society, there are unequivocal signs of progress to be found in unlikely places. The 2017-2018 season will feature a record number of openly gay college football players, an optimistic sign of change for the LBGTQ+ community.

The players span the full breadth of the college football machine, from top division teams to smaller regional universities. Kansas State offensive lineman Kyle Frantz, a sophomore, said in an interview that he's gotten a strong positive reaction from his community since coming out earlier this year, and even received letters from supporters telling them his coming out helped them with their own sexuality.

“You just have to help out people whenever you can, that’s what life’s all about,” Frantz told local CBS affiliate station WIBW. "You can’t go through it alone and if I can reach out to even just one person and help them not hate themselves, people who feel hopeless, if I can reach one person and potentially save their life, that’s all that matters."

My-King Johnson, of Tempe, Ari., will start his freshman season at the University of Arizona this year as the first openly gay FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, the top rated teams in the nation) scholarship player ever, according to LGBTQ+ sports site Out Sports. Johnson told Tucson.com that he came out for the first time when he was 12 years old, and that his sexuality has rarely been an issue throughout his career in sports.

The other four players are Kyle Kurdziolek, a junior linebacker at the University of St. Francis, Darrion McAlister, a senior center for Marian University, Wyatt Pertuset, a sophomore wide receiver for Capital University, and Xavier Colman, a sophomore linebacker for Butler University. The record for openly gay players in a season also would have been broken with only five players, but Colman came out to his teammates last week and raised the stakes even further.

This is an exceptionally encouraging cultural shift for the LGBTQ+ community, which has largely been excluded from the world of high-profile sports in the United States. Openly gay NFL players haven't fared particularly well in the league, driving stereotypes that gay men don't have what it takes to play football. Now, with top-rated recruits openly discussing their sexuality, there's hope that the toxic gender roles and beliefs enshrined in football culture will break down further and faster.

Whether or not these players have any great success in their football careers, they're undeniably changing history. It's a short step from here to a generation of children idolizing a gay NFL star, and the sooner that happens, and more inclusive and accepting America will become. Sports are a reflection of what a society stands for, and this is a welcome reflection for many.