(FOX 11) - Not many sports fans have ever heard of former NFL running back David Kopay. But he did something that made history. Coming out as gay.
David Kopay is 76-years-old now, but he talks about his days in the NFL as if they were yesterday. Sometimes he struggles with his memory. He says, “I do have some issues with my cognitive memory.” If you ask him if he had a concussion, he smiles broadly, chuckle and says, “how many?"
Back in the 60’s Kopay was a running back with six NFL teams over 9 years. He ticks them off almost in a single breath saying, "San Francisco, Detroit, Washington, New Orleans, Oakland and Green Bay.” His favorite? “The 49er’s for the first four years because it was so unexpected that I made the team.” He says “I was a free agent. There were 30 free agents. They had about 90 people in camp. It was not easy.”
Also, not easy a deep dark secret he was holding inside. He was gay and hiding it. Finally, 3 years after he retired from football in 1975, he became the first NFL player to come out of the closet. Says Kopay, "I've been blessed that I did speak out when I did. And, it wasn't an easy thing to do then knowing that my parents were so against it. And, was like uncovering the dark secrets of the Kopay family. Yet, it was my life and I needed to stand up and be counted."
But, the depth of his despair during his playing days hiding his sexuality our of fear he's lose his job. He says, "I was desperate. I was suffocating. I was… it was horrible.”
There is much to his story, but to understand the depths of his feeling watch the emotional video story posted here and hear about his mom, his activities in the gay community and a big surprise we sprung on Kopay with the help of a man in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.