Between belting out tunes from Sarah McLachlan and Christina
Aguilera, Esera Tuaolo, a former NFL player who came out as gay in
2002, told the story of his life at the Lory Student Center Theatre
As the keynote speaker of the Transgender, Bisexual, Gay,
Lesbian Awareness Days (T’BGLAD), a week presented by the Student
Organization of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Tuaolo spoke
of his life before, during and after his nine-year career in the
With a voice as powerful as the 405 pounds that his arms can
lift on the bench press, Tuaolo singing the lyrics to Aguilera’s
“Beautiful” echoed his message of people being happy with their
“Only a 320-pound, ex-NFL gay man could pull off Christina
Aguilera,” said Kato Steffan, a sophomore forestry major who was in
attendance. “It was good.”
Tuaolo is one of three NFL players to come out as gay, all of
whom came out after retiring. Brenda Gardner, a SOGLBT co-chair,
thought Tuaolo had one message that stood out above the rest.
“The biggest thing he said was that it is just really important
to be yourself. It is what will make you the happiest,” Gardner
Tuaolo first decided to hide his true identity when he was five
years old, after his friends started making jokes about being
“That is when I started living my double life,” Tuaolo said.
“That is when I knew I could not be myself.”
After a troubling and confusing childhood, Tuaolo finally found
something he was good at on the football field. He played in high
school before getting a scholarship to Oregon State University,
where five years later he became the highest-drafted OSU player in
“It is hard enough for a man to get into the NFL, but it is
twice as hard for a gay man because of the things we carry with
us,” Tuaolo said.
He was picked 35th by the Green Bay Packers and went on to play
for the Vikings, Jaguars, Panthers and played in Super Bowl XXXIII
as an Atlanta Falcon. He retired in 1999 and became a husband and a
After going through the trials and tribulations of being a gay
man on the football field, which some people consider to be one of
the most macho and gay-unfriendly places in the world, he decided
to come out of the closet.
“One of the reasons I came out is because it was time,” Tuaolo
said. “I was tired of lying. I wanted my kids to know that we were
happy and we weren’t ashamed of who we were.”
Even though he battled depression, anxiety attacks and even
suicide attempts, Tuaolo never revealed his sexual identity while
playing football because of fear and a desire to support his mother
“I was scared of being hurt. I would not have played in the NFL
for nine years if I came out earlier,” Tuaolo said.
Tuaolo now lives with his family in Minnesota, where he is
starting a new career as a professional singer.
“I would never go back because my life right now is so