MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 26: Al Horford #42 of the Florida Gators looks to move the ball inside against Will Sheridan #50 of the Villanova Wildcats during their Minneapolis Regional Final of the 2006 NCAA Divison I Men's Basketball Tournament.
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Former Villanova basketball player Will Sheridan came out as gay to his Villanova teammates while a player and then publicly after he left college. He talks about his experience and reacts to professional basketball player Jason Collins coming out as gay.
What was it like when you first came out to your Villanova teammaters freshman year?
I think every time you come out it is pretty nerve-racking. You build it up to be this huge monster. The first person I came out to on the team was Mike. It was a casual conversation and then it kinda got less casual and then I was like-- look. If you are going to be using my computer, you are probably going to see some things; we are in college. It was normal and the monster went away. Coming out is something you build up.
Did your teammates treat you differently after you came out?
I'm a different individual any way. No, I never was (treated differently). I was teased a little like everyone else.
When you first heard Jason Collins came out, what were your feelings?
My feelings are that there are so many gay athletes that are already out. It's just like in basketball it's a big deal and in football it is a big deal. My thinking is how is this news. It's great and good for culture. It stimulates conversations. We need to be able to communicate about things and grow from that. As far as my experience and his experience-- they are different. He is from the west coast and played in L.A. I'm from the east coast. I'm just glad he is articulate and explained his journey. You never want someone to represent your community who is an a-hole.
What was your reaction when you saw John Amechi's photo in Sports Illustrated? Do you feel you and John Amechi had a little part in Jason coming out?
When seeing Amechi's photo in the locker room-- I remembered being really uncomfortable. When you are uncomfortable with who you are completely, you try to distance yourself. So I was like this is crazy what the world is coming to. People are really coming out.
Um, yeah you can't deny it. I had the opportunity to come out way before I actually did publicly. I think I had a little something to do with it. But, this is his day. This is his moment. It's all about Jason Collins right now. I'm not trying to take any shine from him.
Are you proud of Jason Collins?
Yes, of course. I'm over-joyed. I want him to be super successful and be a role model for people I don't even know. Because when you come out, it's not about you. When you have the luxury of doing it on camera, you come out and the story comes out. All these people are probably emailing him--Facebook and Twitter-- and sharing their stories. It's overwhelming. I'm tremendously proud of him.
You played overseas. Did you wait until your basketball career was over to come out publicly?
I think there's a misconception with that. It was really no one else's business who I wanted to share it with. A lot of my friends on campus were well aware. And then I came out to my teammates as we grew in a relationship like a team and I felt more comfortable. Coming out publicly-- I was already out to a bunch of people. To come and get on air and say I'm a homosexual. I'm gay. I like men. I think that was groundbreaking.
I wasn't even thinking about basketball. I was thinking about my personal relationships with individuals. I had an interesting relationship with my father after coming out. I look at coach Wright as a father figure; he gives me so much advice. I was worried my parents would be ridiculed at work or they would be bullied persay in Delaware where they live at, or that some of my friends would receive feedback or emails or hate mail. I was more concerned about that and my personal relationships with my middle school and high school.
Do you think now it's easier for someone in our country to come out? And to come out in professional basketball?
I would never say it's easier to come out. Everyone's saying it's a public thing but it is very personal. It took him 34 years to get to this point. Now he has got to wait for everyone in his life to really get to the point that they are that comfortable with him. Sports is changing. America is changing. We are extrememly progressive right now.
That's a completely different monster. You are dealing with a lot of millionaires with egos. I think he (Jason) will be good. The thing is now it's going to be about talent. He's a 34 year-old center-- is he good enough to play? He's a vet. He's been in the league 12-13 years. I think he will be fine.
With Jason Collins coming out, will this open the doors for other professional athletes to come out to?
Yes. One opportunity leads to another. I think that it's really important for people who want to be ambassadors to the community realize the responsibility. If you are going to come, be the F'n best, like be the best. Don' t be like I want to be a gay basketball player. Be a ballplayer who wins games and leads your team and who happens to be gay.
Has anyone opposed your coming out?
My dad to this day goes back and forth. He's like- I want you to get married. I say, I can have kids. He says, you need to marry a woman-- all that old school thought. I say, I can get married. At the end of the day, you don't have to support the gay community. But, I'm your son. Just support me.
How has coming out changed your life?
I get booked at universities. I really feel like it's a luxury to come out and speak in public. You never ever have to explain yourself again. It gave me tremendous personal power and exposed my character. I am who I am. I've always been that way. I have no qualms. I'm just me. That's awesome. That's a luxury.