Sun Devils lineman tells magazine he's gay

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona State offensive lineman Edward "Chip" Sarafin has told a local magazine he is gay, making him the first active Division I football player to come out.

A fifth-year senior, Sarafin told Tempe-based Compete, a magazine for gay sports, that he began telling teammates of his sexual orientation last spring.

"It was really personal to me, and it benefited my peace of mind greatly," he said in the magazine's August issue.

"He wishes it wasn't even an issue, or a news story, but it is," magazine writer Josh Wyrick told 3TV.  

Wyrick interviewed Sarafin in July for the article released Wednesday.  He says ASU officials contacted the magazine in early July about interviewing Sarafin, and a member of the ASU Athletics Department sat in on their conversation.

"He was definitely supportive of Chip," Wyrick said.

The walk-on lineman follows the precedent set by St. Louis Rams linebacker Michael Sam. Sam told teammates he was gay during his playing days, but did not come out publicly until after finishing his career at Missouri.

"As with Michael Sam, [Sarafin] felt spurred to do anything he could to help people in his situation, or those in high school or younger," Wyrick Said.

Sam Tweeted a message of support to Sarafin following the announcement Wednesday afternoon, which quickly spread to media outlets worldwide.

Sarafin grew up in Gilbert, and played football for Highland High School.

While he is not a star player at ASU, Wyrick says Sarafin's announcement is significant.

"These things have a snowball effect.  If a bunch of lower-profile athletes come out, maybe we'll see a high-profile player come out," he said.

Massachusetts sophomore Derrick Gordon became the first active openly-gay Division I basketball player when he came out in April.

New Jersey Nets forward Jason Collins became the first active openly-gay player in one of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues when he came out to Sports Illustrated in April 2013. He became the first openly-gay player to play in an NBA game after signing with the Nets last season.

Numerous other athletes have come out as gay the past couple of years, opening the door for players like Sarafin to do it without much fear of repercussions from teammates or coaches.

"The entire athletics department is extremely proud of Chip and is unequivocally supportive of him," Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement.

A 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman from Gilbert, Arizona, Sarafin graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering last spring and is currently in Arizona State's master's program. He has yet to play in a game, working as a scout-team player early in his career and providing depth on the Sun Devils' offensive line last season.

Sarafin has been involved in research for football-related concussions and has been active in the community with youth sports and the Tillman Scholars program.

"We are a brotherhood that is not defined by cultural and personal differences, but rather an individual's commitment to the Sun Devil Way," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "Chip is a fifth-year senior and a Scholar Baller, a graduate and a master's student. His commitment to service is unmatched and it is clear he is on his way to leading a successful life after his playing career, a goal that I have for every student-athlete. Diversity and acceptance are two of the pillars of our program, and he has full support from his teammates and the coaching staff."

Sarafin also received support from Sam via Twitter.

"Congratulations Chip Sarafin for having the courage to be yourself. Wishing you and your teammates much success this season. (hash)courage2014," Sam tweeted.

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