1080 The FAN
Portland's All-Sports Station. You Know Us, We Know Sports!

Local: 503.250.1080
    Toll Free: 866.358.1080
| More
College Football
Scoreboard|Standings|Teams|Leaders|Polls

Kicker for Willamette announces he's bisexual

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer

SALEM, Ore. (AP) Conner Mertens didn't want to pretend anymore - especially with his teammates.

So the redshirt freshman kicker at Division III Willamette announced Tuesday that he's bisexual.

"It got to a point where I just got tired of it, trying to hide who I was and trying to pretend I was something I was not," he said.

Mertens, 19, announced his sexual orientation to his teammates during a meeting on Monday. A story about him appeared on Outsports.com on Tuesday.

Speaking on campus later in the afternoon, Mertens said he hopes his announcement helps dispel the stereotypes and stigmas associated with bisexual athletes - and in turn let other LGBT athletes know they are not alone.

"You can be real and you can be yourself," Mertens said. "That only starts when you can love yourself and let others love you. That's kind of where I was going with this."

Bearcats coach Glen Fowles said the players were overwhelmingly supportive of his decision.

"It's been great to see the way our guys have rallied around," Fowles said. "For our guys, Conner is just a kicker."

Team captain and junior inside linebacker Jack Nelson said: "It wasn't a big deal and we were glad he felt comfortable to tell us."

While several LGBT athletes have come out, including former NBA player Jason Collins, WNBA star Brittney Griner and Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers, it's believed that Mertens is the first active college football player at any level to publicly announce his bisexuality.

Willamette issued a statement supporting Mertens' decision, saying the university "respects his contribution to a more humane and just world."

Fowles joked about how Mertens first approached him: "He says, `Coach, I'm really going to utilize this open door policy.'"

Mertens, who told his family just after Christmas, said he was humbled by the response.

"It sounds corny, but I legitimately feel there's a weight off my shoulders. It's tiring to pretend your something else for 24-7, for 18 or 19 years of your life," he said. "So finally to be able to joke about it, to be honest about it, not have to put on this mask, I'm finally able to take a deep breath."

The Bearcats play in the Northwest Conference. The team went 7-2 overall last season and finished third in the league at 4-2.

Mertens did not play his freshman season because he hurt his left knee while playing soccer. He will compete with two other kickers on the Bearcats' roster.

Updated January 28, 2014

w9 © 2015 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

The Fan's Top Stories

Mariners fire general manager Jack Zduriencik


(AP) The Seattle Mariners have fired general manager Jack Zduriencik after seven disappointing seasons during which the club failed to end its playoff drought. More.

Ducks' Allen goes cautious with rehab


(AP) Oregon's Devon Allen is not working toward just a football comeback, he's aiming for Rio, too. The speedy receiver tore his ACL in the Rose Bowl and the No. 7 Ducks are . . . more.

Inexperienced QB trio battles for Beavers' starting role


(AP) Oregon State freshman Seth Collins is focusing on himself, not on the outside noise about the Beavers' quarterback competition. It's all speculation . . . more.

Ex-NBA star Darryl Dawkins dies at 58


(AP) Darryl Dawkins was once summoned in the Philadelphia 76ers' locker room to come meet a celebrity who wanted to meet the man known for dunking with backboard-breaking . . . more.

Seahawks LB pushing for playing time


(AP) It doesn't take long for the speed of Kevin Pierre-Louis to catch your eye. The second-year Seahawks linebacker has loads of it. It's a trait that Seattle covets in its linebackers . . . more.

Sarkisian: meds, booze led to ugly scene


(AP) Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian publicly apologized Tuesday for his drunken appearance at a team rally last weekend, attributing his slurred, profane speech to . . . more.

Ducks #7, Buckeyes first unanimous #1 in AP poll


(AP) Ohio State is the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll. The defending national champion Buckeyes received all 61 first-place votes from . . . more.

FCS power NDSU to visit Ducks in 2020


(AP) The FCS' most dominant program has a date with one of the FBS' biggest powerhouses. North Dakota State and Oregon announced Friday they will meet at Autzen Stadium . . . more.

The FAN's NFL Page


From the games, to the hot stories and the player moves, The FAN's NFL Page has everything you need for your favorite team, your fantasy team and more.

The FAN's Golf Page


The FAN's Golf Page is where you can go for the latest AP coverage of the PGA, LPGA, Web.Com, European and Champion's Tour info. From leader boards to stories, it's all right here.

The FAN's NBA Page


What offseason? From draft news, to trades and free agency, you'll find the latest Trail Blazers and league news on The FAN's NBA page.

The Mariners Page


For the latest on M's Baseball, including player moves, previews, real time gamecasts and recaps, head to The FAN's Mariners Page.