Friday was another step on the journey for Carl Nassib, speaking publicly for the first time since coming out in June as the first openly gay active player in the NFL.
Another way by which the Raiders’ defensive end might remove some of the overpowering weight from his shoulders. Stress the size of Everest can be tough to overcome.
“I just wanted to get this (media conference) over with, wanted to move on, just have a lot of clarity,” Nassib said. “I feel better today. I feel better than I did yesterday and the day before that. So I’m looking forward to the future.
“It has been good to not have to lie when I come to work every day.”
He came out via an Instagram video. Sixty seconds that changed his life and hopefully countless others who find themselves in a similarly dark existence, wanting to share with the world who they truly are. People he will never know.
In addition to coming out during Pride Month, Nassib donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project, an organization for suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
“It is a lot bigger than I am,” said Nassib, 28. “Totally cognizant of that … I hope I’ve helped people. That’s what you go through in life — trying to help people as much as you can.
“It was definitely stressful, growing up being in the closest and doing all that. It’s very stressful for anybody. I can speak from experience.”
Nassib had come out to family and friends over the years, but telling fellow NFL players might have been the biggest test of all.
In a league where gay rights has hardly been the most advanced of social issues, how teammates responded to Nassib would go a long ways in scripting the narrative.
He wasn’t worried. Said that he has been met with nothing but love and support. That he knew things would be fine. That he told coaches first so that they could digest the news and help him through the process.
That he was actually surprised anyone cared but glad he could bring visibility and representation to the (LGBTQ) community.
Football remains paramount. Nassib said that his body felt like Jell-O in the days following his announcement, but such anxiety passed. It’s all about performing on the field now. He needs to be better. So does everyone around him.
Nassib last season ranked a respectable 58th out of 101 players at his position by Pro Football Focus on one of the NFL’s worst defenses. He tied a career-low of 2.5 sacks while starting five of 14 games.
At his previous stop in Tampa Bay over 29 games and 17 starts, Nassib totaled 6.5 and 6 sacks in two years.
He’s a player, head coach Jon Gruden recently said, who will have to earn his snaps this season. Nassib signed a three-year deal worth $25.25 million — $16.75 million guaranteed — in March of last year, but more competition was needed on the edge. So here we go.
The team’s defensive end unit now includes prized free-agent signing Yannick Ngakoue and rookie Malcolm Koonce to join returners Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell and Nassib. Breaking into a regular weekly rotation could prove taxing.
His best life
Relieved best described Nassib as he exited the team’s training facility media room Friday. He was eventually going to answer questions during camp about his announcement. This was the time. Now it’s only about football.
It’s one thing to carry around such an incomprehensible amount of weight atop your shoulders. But releasing it can be transformative in the most wonderful of ways.
“I’ve been blessed so much in my life,” Nassib said. “I literally have the best life I could ask for.”
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.