UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon is happy now. He uses words such as "free" and "fun" to describe his coming-out process after he became the first openly gay player in Division I college men's basketball on Wednesday.
"Why now? Because I'm comfortable with myself," Gordon told USA TODAY Sports in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. "I didn't feel like hiding anymore. It was killing me, eating me alive. No one should have to go through that. I want to help kids who don't know how to handle (being gay). I want to show you can be an athlete and be gay."
Gordon told USA TODAY Sports he currently is not dating anyone but had a boyfriend in the past.
First the sophomore guard had to get past the "nerve-racking" feelings that derived from years of hiding. Gordon came out to his family Sunday, he told his coach Sunday night and his teammates Wednesday before making the news public Wednesday in Outsports and on ESPN.
"When I came out to my parents, I was shaking the whole time," Gordon said. "My parents kept guessing what I had to tell them. My mom got it on the fifth try. Mothers know best. My father was shocked but came around and is supportive of who I am. That's the comfort level I needed."
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said Gordon was audibly nervous when speaking to him over the phone late Sunday night. After Gordon delivered the news to his coach, Kellogg's response was quick and to the point.
"I told him we loved him, and he's a part of our family no matter what," Kellogg told USA TODAY Sports. "I said, 'We'll be here for you through everything.'
"I'm proud of him for coming out, I think it's really courageous what he's doing. … I think this kind of thing can unite us more than anything. And now it's out in the open so I think that helps make it more comfortable. ... He wanted to finally be himself. He didn't want to hide anymore. We support him 100%."
Kellogg helped Gordon when he struggled to tell his teammates.
"I got choked up a couple of times," Gordon said. "It's not an easy thing to tell somebody. It's a serious situation because you're worried about how people are going to respond."