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In February 2014, Michael Sam, an All-American defensive-end from the University of Missouri, publicly announced that he was gay. In a game like football, which has historically been suffocated by the stigma that it is a strictly heterocentric sport, Sam opened a door for LGBT players to proudly step out of the shadows, and was met with wholesale acceptance from his teammates and coaches. Just over two years later, in May 2016, Kyle Kurdziolek, a linebacker at Illinois’ University of Saint Francis, followed in Sam’s footsteps, announcing to his teammates, and the world, that he too was gay. In doing so, Kurdziolek became just the fifth active college football player to ever openly come out; what Kurdziolek could not have predicted, however, was just how much of an impact that his decision to reveal himself would have.

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