"Being at Augsburg College was a completely different experience. Not only was I out totally by then, but I was myself. I loved football, and just needed to be on a team. I missed the competition, the camps and the camaraderie. Yes, I was gay and out, but I didn’t want to lead with that fact. I just wanted to be a college athlete, while also being accepted off the field for who I really was. My teammates could not have been any more supportive of me than they were and still are. I don’t feel I was being a hero by being out and being honest about it with them; these guys are the true heroes."
Among the highlights he recounted were standing with his partner on Senior Day in November and being asked by his position coach, Mike Matson, to speak in chapel on National Coming Out Day in October.
Cooper, who graduated in December with a communications degree, wraps up by telling why he wanted to share his story and the power of sport in what has been a controversy elsewhere:
"There are three reasons I wanted my experience to be told. First, I wanted to give confidence and encouragement to anyone who is unsure about themselves; and in this case, especially other gay athletes. Secondly, more stories about gay athletes should be told; because the more we hear about gay athletes, the less of a big deal it is. One day, I hope it is a complete non-issue. Until then, we have to stay vocal.
And last, but in no way least, I want people to know that there are teams out there where this is a non-issue. My Auggies deserve so much credit for breaking every stereotype that male athletes tend to have regarding gays. They accepted adversity, embraced their brother, and stood together. After all, isn’t that what sports are supposed to teach us?"
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