By signing high school football star My-King Johnson, the Arizona Wildcats became the first major college to accept an openly gay player, reports say.
Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end from Tempe High School in Arizona, told the media he made sure to let Wildcats defensive line coach Vincent Amey know that he was openly gay. Johnson said that Amey didn’t care and told him, “we want you to be a Wildcat.”
Still, the young player is wary of being openly gay in college sports.
“I do feel like when I say that [I’m gay], it can put a target on my back. But whatever,” the player said to The Arizona Daily Star.
Amey insisted that his players will have Johnson’s back.
“When I found out, I really couldn’t sleep,” Amey added. “And it wasn’t like I was uncomfortable with it. I was just like, all right, it’s different, it’s new. … I said, ‘Look, you are who you are, I am who I am, and I’m going to coach you the same way. I’m going to treat you the same way. I’m going to get on you the same way as everybody else. There’s no difference. You do what you do.'”
For his part, Johnson’s sexual proclivity is nothing new. He claims he told his family he was gay when he was 12 years old.
His mother was supportive. “Sexuality? It doesn’t matter. … That’s how I teach my children,” said Nadette Lewis, Johnson’s mother. Lewis also supported her son in other important ways:
Lewis juggled two, and sometimes three jobs to keep herself and her family afloat, she says, “to make sure we weren’t on welfare, that we weren’t a statistic.” Two years ago, Lewis moved to Seattle. She gave her son the option of staying in Tempe with his grandmother as long as he kept his grades up and focused on his future. So Johnson carries a 3.8 GPA.
Johnson’s father has been in and out of jail throughout the player’s life and is not an involved father.
My-King is also keenly aware that his first name is unconventional (his sister has the same issue. She was named A-Queen). “My name definitely motivates me,” Johnson said. “When someone’s looking down at a roster, or they’re looking at a page, they’re going to say … let me see what he’s about,” he added.
Ultimately, Johnson just wants to play football.
I'm just here to play football.
— My-King Johnson (@kingj9943) February 25, 2017
According to USA Today High School Sports, one other player became the first openly gay college football player. Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he was gay in February 2014, but only did so after he was playing. His sexuality was not known during the recruitment phase.
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