Alan Gendreau was all over the news last week, not so much because of his football skills, but mostly because he’s gay, and that he’s holding on to a dream. It’s only that latter point that should really matter, but all the hullabaloo around Gendreau’s story and his sexual orientation the last few days is a reminder that many of us are just not quite there yet.
Raised in Florida, the 23-year-old Gendreau had his shot at the NFL draft a year ago, and for a variety of reasons he didn’t get selected. He’s a kicker, a pretty good one, but kickers generally aren’t a hot commodity in the draft. For example, the annual NFL jamboree conducted this weekend counted only two kickers among its 254 picks. As essential as they may be to a team’s fortunes (see: Adam Vinatieri, Snow Bowl), kickers remain somewhat of an afterthought, a curiosity if not an oddity, when the NFL’s 32 teams fill their cart with the annual college crop of groceries.
Gendreau is different, in part because he’s an openly gay athlete who wants to be in the NFL, but also because he didn’t do his kicking at a huge college football factory. A football and soccer standout at Orangewood Christian High School, just north of Orlando, he attended Middle Tennessee State on a scholarship and went on to set the Sun Belt Conference record for points (295) over four seasons with the Blue Raiders before graduating last spring.
For all that success, however, Gendreau didn’t find a taker in the 2012 NFL draft. There was that mediocre senior season (8 for 14 on field goal attempts) he posted in 2011. There was the fact that he didn’t have an agent. And then, of course, he didn’t have USC or Georgia Tech or Alabama or some other Big Time Football U proof of pedigree on his résumé. He only had that boatload of points and an equal amount of faith that his record would speak for itself, get his kicking foot in the door.
In retrospect, as he said in a story published last week by Outsports, that approach was “half-assed.’’
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