Willamette community offers support to bisexual athlete Conner Mertens

by University Communications,

Conner Mertens '17 came out as bisexual today in an article in Outsports magazine — the first college football player in the United States to do so publicly while still playing.

In response to the announcement, his team — and the Willamette community — rallied around Mertens while he issued a statement to the media.

Overwhelmed by well wishes, Mertens said via Twitter, "Absolutely humbled and speechless right now. If you know me, you know how crazy that second part is. I can't say thank you enough."

A native of Kennewick, Wash., Mertens said in the Outsports article that he came out to inspire other LGBT athletes to be true to themselves. He shared the news with head football coach Glen Fowles last week and came out to his team last night.

So far, alumni, students and others have broadcasted their support for Mertens via Facebook and Twitter, saying he's "taking a brave step in the right direction," and that they're proud of "the great team and amazing coaching leadership."

The reaction is mirroring that of the football team, which fills Fowles with pride.

"They were supportive because he's one of their teammates. It was impressive," Fowles said in the Outsports article.

"After that meeting I congratulated the coaches for recruiting good men. We've got something special here. I was so proud of those guys. If that's the future of young men in America, we've got a shot. It was awesome."