UMass sophomore Derrick Gordon says he’d been wondering how long it would be before college level sports would see gay players come forward, when he decided, “Why not me?” and became the first openly gay Division 1 basketball player.

Gordon photo

After coming out to family and teammates—many of whom, he says, already expected it—Gordon told his story to Outsports earlier this week. “God put me in this situation for a reason, so I have to take advantage of it. Maybe he wants me to be the starter of something big. Maybe he doesn’t want me to feel the way I felt anymore. Whatever he has in store for me, I’m ready,” he says.

Gordon hopes his story will help others come out the way professional athletes have helped him. This time last year, NBA player Jason Collins made history as the first openly gay male athlete in a major U.S. sport; more recently, Michael Sam—Missouri football star and reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year—came out just before the NFL draft.

“When kids aren’t able to come out, I know why. It’s a scary thing. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this. I want to give kids some courage and someone they can look up to. If I can come out and play basketball, then why can’t they do it? I want to be able to help those people,” Gordon says.

As for stereotypes, Gordon isn’t concerned. “People think gay men are soft. I’m not. Especially my background growing up, I was never a soft kid and I’ll never be a soft kid. People think gays are very delicate. That’s not the case at all. I know Michael Sam and Jason Collins aren’t delicate. My strength coach compares me to a pit pull. There’s no softness in this body.”

See Gordon’s story here: