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Who is Carl Nassib? Meet the NFL’s first openly gay player


For the first time in NFL history, an openly gay player will take the field in a regular season game.

Carl Nassib is on the Raiders’ 53-man roster and figures to see plenty of playing time in Las Vegas’ home-opener against the Ravens on Monday, as well as throughout the rest of the season as the top backup at left defensive end, according to the team’s depth chart.

MORE: Raiders’ Carl Nassib has NFL’s top-selling jersey after coming out

Making history

Never in the NFL’s history has a player on the field in a regular-season game after coming out as gay.

However, Nassib is not the first gay player to be on the field. According to Outsports, there have been 16 gay or bisexual NFL players to come out publicly. Ten of those players have appeared in NFL games:

  • Running back Davey Kopay
  • Tight end Jerry Smith
  • Running back Ray McDonald
  • Offensive lineman Roy Simmons
  • Linebacker Jeff Rohrer
  • Defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo
  • Offensive lineman Kwame Harris
  • Offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan
  • Defensive lineman Ryan Russell
  • Defensive lineman Carl Nassib

Six more out players reached training camp: wide receiver Wade Davis, wide receiver Dorien Bryant, defensive back Martin Jenkins, offensive lineman Brad Thorson, defensive end Michael Sam and tight end Colton Underwood.

Nassib’s announcement was met with widespread support, from the NFL world to President Joe Biden. Not long after he came out, his jersey became the top selling in the NFL.

After he came out, he pledged to donate $100,000 to The Trevor Project, an organization that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth.

During the early days of training camp, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said that no one on the team “has treated him any different,” according to ESPN.

“From my point of view — his locker is just a few down from mine — and I just want to make sure that he knows that, man, we just want him to play as hard as he can so we can win a Super Bowl,” Carr said, per ESPN. “That’s what we’re here to do.

“We’re still a family when we come in this building. We better treat him like such. And so, from my point of view, it’s been good.”

In his first press conference since coming out, Nassib said he was surprised by the amount of attention he received for coming out and noted that it was “such a good feeling to have all that support,” according to Out Magazine.

“I was glad to do my part to help bring visibility and representation to my community,” Nassib said.

He also said that he has felt “zero stress” about the reaction from the rest of the team.

“We’ve got a great locker room, great teammates. I’ve been met with nothing but love and support. It has been incredible. Football players get a bad wrap. But we’re humble, hard-working, accepting people. This was a great example of that.”

MORE: Remembering Michael Sam’s NFL, CFL career

NFL career to this point

Nassib began his pro career with the Browns in 2016 when he was drafted 65th overall.

He appeared in 14 games, but started just three. He finished his first season with 2.5 sacks with 15 solo tackles, five assists, seven QB hits and two tackles for a loss. His debut, which came against the Eagles, saw him record a sack, three tackles and a deflected pass that earned him a nomination as the NFL Rookie of the Week.

Nassib took a step up his second season with the team as he started 12 games and appeared in all 16 for Cleveland in 2017, as he recorded 32 tackles — 19 solo and 13 assisted — with three sacks, nine tackles for loss and five passes defended.

That would be his final campaign with the Browns as they placed him on waivers. He was quickly picked up by the Buccaneers and played in two seasons with them. He set career-highs with 6.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits in 2018 and added six more sacks the following season. 

He hit free agency after the 2019 season and signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Raiders. In his first season in Las Vegas, he recorded 2.5 sacks with five tackles for loss, nine quarterback hits, 17 solo tackles, 11 assisted and he picked up his first interception, returning it 23 yards. He started five games and appeared in 14.

MORE: NFL world ‘proud’ of Carl Nassib for coming out

Dominant senior season at Penn State

Before Nassib began his NFL career, he was one of the best defensive players in college football as a senior.

He did not play his first two seasons, but appeared in double-digit games as a redshirt sophomore and junior before getting the starting assignment as a senior.

His final year showed off his NFL-ready talents. He totaled 19.5 tackles for loss for 120 yards with 15.5 sacks for 107 yards, tallied 46 total tackles — 31 solo and 15 assisted — forced six fumbles, intercepted a pass and defended two more.

The accolades came pouring in. He was a unanimous All-American, received the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten and the Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s best defensive end. He was also named a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award (both given to the best defensive player in the nation) and the Burlsworth Trophy (given to the top walk-on).




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