In a terrifically done piece by Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler, former Patriots tackle Ryan O’Callaghan has come out as gay.
O’Callaghan, who was a fifth-round pick out of Cal by the Pats in 2006, spent three seasons with New England, the third of which saw him spend the entire 2008 season in injured reserve before being released. He then spent three seasons with the Chiefs and has been on permanent disability due to injuries since.
In the piece, it is revealed that O’Callaghan’s intention was to use football to hide his sexuality and that he intended to kill himself once his career ended. He speaks to a “deadly serious relationship with football,” intimating that making the Patriots after being drafted was a means of keeping himself alive.
The story notes that O’Callaghan felt New England was the perfect place to be drafted, as the Patriots were so focused on winning that he didn’t feel anyone would pay attention to his personal life.
When his career ended following the 2011 season, O’Callaghan began abusing pain killers. He estimated that he was spending $400 a month on pain killers late in 2011, and that he had built a small cabin outside of Kansas City where he intended to kill himself. The cabin contained “a number of guns” and a suicide note that he would eventually leave.
O’Callaghan said that he tried spending all his money and distancing himself from family members so that it would “impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to back out” of committing suicide.
After coming out to a therapist while trying to kick his drug habit, O’Callaghan decided to confide in then-Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. Having known of O’Callaghan’s drug problem, Pioli feared when O’Callaghan asked for a meeting that the player had done something wrong. The exchange of the meeting, per Zeigler’s story:
'He had built this up like he was coming in to tell me that maybe he had done something truly terrible,' Pioli remembered.
O’Callaghan trudged into Pioli’s office the next day. After a hug and some small talk, O’Callaghan turned serious. He told Pioli he had been visiting with Wilson and had gotten 'clean.' It was good news to Pioli.
'I’ve got something else I’ve got to tell you,' O’Callaghan said. At this point he was fighting back tears. Pioli’s mind raced, wondering if his player had harmed or killed someone.
'I’m gay,' O’Callaghan said.
His private announcement was met with immediate support from the GM. Then:
'So what’s the problem you wanted to talk me about?' Pioli asked.
O’Callaghan looked at him, bewildered, 27 years of fear, anxiety and self-loathing meeting Pioli’s stare.
'Scott,' O’Callaghan said, 'I’m… gay.'
Pioli acknowledged that and asked again if O’Callaghan had done something wrong.
'People like me are supposed to react a certain way, I guess,' Pioli told Outsports. 'I wasn’t minimizing what he was telling me, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. He built this up and built this up to the point where he said he was nearly suicidal. What Ryan didn’t know is how many gay people I’ve had in my life.'
Pioli notes in the piece that O’Callaghan was not the first gay player to disclose his sexuality to him.
O’Callaghan then came out to friends and family, revealing his contemplation of suicide as well. He now lives in his home town of Redding, Calif.