As the clock wound down during the final rounds of the NFL draft on Saturday, only two kickers were chosen — and 23-year-old openly gay former Middle Tennessee State placekicker Alan Gendreau was not one of them.
Gendreau caused a bit of a media storm heading into the draft thanks to a lengthy profile from Cyd Zeigler over at OutSports. His story got picked up by a number of outlets and he did the rounds on some of the morning television shows. ABC's Good Morning America did a nice profile on the kid:
Gendreau could have been the first openly gay pro athlete in pro football if any of the NFL's 32 teams took a chance on him on Saturday. The league has been struggling to keep up with the pressures of social acceptance since the Super Bowl, when San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said a gay teammate wouldn't be welcome in the locker room. NFL coaches asking players about their sexuality during the draft combine -- the regular forum for rookies to show their physical skill to impress scouts -- didn't help matters, especially considering it was against league rules. So Gendreau's story was a potential breath of fresh air for the NFL when other leagues were making huge strides towards acceptance and they were still tripping over their shoelaces.
To say Gendreau's college career was a bust would be a lie. He was a star kicker on the small Middle Tennessee State football team. They're no powerhouse in a mega conference like the S.E.C., but the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are good enough to be a division one NCAA squad in the Sun Belt Conference.
His fellow Blue Raiders knew Gendreau was gay, but they didn't care. The whole world didn't know about his sexuality, but his family, friends, coaches and teammates were all well aware of it. He was just another dude in the locker room who made jokes and played football. "Everyone just saw him as a football player," former teammate Josh Davis told OutSports. "He was just one of the guys. The fact that he proved himself on the field, there was a respect for him. He's a good guy. He's a lot of fun to be around. With all the coaches and players, he had a good relationship."
Over his four years with the team, Gendreau racked up enough points to secure the conference's career points record (295). But a mediocre senior season (he went 8 for 14 on his kicks that year) led to him losing coupled with an admittedly "half-assed" attempt at getting drafted in the NFL led him to take a year off from football. He had put that dream on the back burner. He stayed in shape but started working a residential real estate job in D.C.
But this year he was making a renewed push to get there. "Right now, looking back when I’m 40, I can’t say I gave it my best shot," Gendreau told OutSports. "I can’t say I really tried to make it into the NFL. Last year I did it half-assed. If I don’t give it everything I have now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life."
Part of the reason he didn't get drafted was that he wasn't quite there in terms of professional football shape. He estimated in the Out Sports profile that he was still a month of training away from being ready for an NFL tryout. And clearly there wasn't a big market of teams looking for kickers this year. But injuries happen all the time, and it's only the beginning of the summer. At the very least, he's on the radar now. "I could have him out there 40 hours a day right now, doing TV, radio, and print," his publicist, Howard Bragman, told the Boston Globe. "But the object for this kid is not to be an activist. Yeah, he’s gay, and that’s all good. But the story, what he wants to do, is for him to make it to the NFL."
So at least we know he's focused. Gendreau should be in shape on time for training camps to begin at the end of the summer. That'll be his next chance to crack an NFL roster. You never know, he could get signed as an undrafted free agent. It's happened before with kickers. You might know this one guy. He kicked for the New England Patriots a few years back. He wasn't so bad, and he didn't get picked in the draft either.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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