Ryan O’Callaghan, a former New England Patriots lineman who publicly revealed he’s gay in a Tuesday Outsports.com story, had told Scott Pioli six years earlier, and the then-Kansas City Chiefs general manager’s reaction is a lesson in compassion and understanding.
O’Callaghan, whom Pioli brought to Kansas City from New England, requested a 2011 meeting with the GM, who was worried something dire had happened. After all, O’Callaghan had struggled with painkiller addiction and suicidal thoughts, which are detailed throughout the Outsports.com piece. So when O’Callaghan told Pioli he was gay, the GM simply asked: “So what’s the problem you wanted to talk me about?”
In Pioli’s mind, there wasn’t a problem.
“People like me are supposed to react a certain way, I guess,” said Pioli, who revealed to Outsports.com that he’d had similar conversations with other gay NFL players. “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.”
O’Callaghan explained to Pioli that he used coffee breaks as an excuse not to shower with his teammates, and as the two parted company, they hugged — at the GM’s insistence, after O’Callaghan initially stuck out his hand for a handshake.
“Dude, it’s OK,” Pioli said, according to Outsports.com. “Just don’t grab my butt.”
The joke put O’Callaghan at ease, and as he laughed, he told Outsports.com that he responded: “Don’t worry, you’re not my type.”
O’Callaghan, a 2006 fifth-round draft pick by the Patriots, played in 27 games, with seven starts, over two seasons. He shared to Outsports.com a story about when he was invited to a party for Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his now-late wife, Myra, he convinced a former Cal teammate’s ex-girlfriend to be his date.
O’Callaghan also found New England a perfect environment for him, saying: “All you are there to do is whatever it takes to win. Distractions were not allowed. Everyone on the team had a job, knew their job and really focused on doing that. As little comfort as it did bring, it did help.”
Thumbnail photo via John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images