Outsports has the scoop on former University of Maryland footballer turned Greco-Roman wrestler Akil Patterson's recent decision to come out of the closet. Outsports spoke with Patterson in October of last year under the condition that only his initials would be used as to thwart off any internet searches, but what a difference a few months can make. Paterson recently opened up about his decision to come out.
At Maryland, Patterson spent as much time drinking, fighting, smoking pot and chasing women as he did on his studies. “Self-medication,” he calls it. But no amount of pot or booze could erase the secret he was trying to hide from himself and others – he was gay.
“My sexuality was a big issue … a really big issue,” Patterson says. “I tried to squash it and move on.” Of his frequent sex with women, he says: “If it had on a skirt and it smiled, it was good enough. I spent a large portion [at Maryland] as a man-whore. I was just an athlete being an athlete.”
But none of this stopped rumors from spreading that he was gay. He was told that when he got drunk (a frequent occurrence back then) that he "tended to say some strange things.” And he says he was pressured by coaches to drop a course he enrolled in, “GLBT Studies.” “I was asked why I was taking fag classes,” Patterson said.
“I wasn't a good student,” he says. “ I was one of those 'C's get degrees' guys. I was partying too much and got blackout drunk. I wanted to be a loner. It was all because of my sexual identity. I spent two years internally wrestling with myself.
Patterson, though, slowly came to realize that he couldn't deny his sexual orientation. In the summer between his sophomore and junior year, he had sex with a waiter he had flirted with. With Johnny Cash's song “Hurt” playing in the background, Patterson and the waiter kissed, then kissed again. “It was good,” he said. “It was what I needed and it didn't feel wrong.”
But the low point may have come when he was asked by a coach, “What are you? Some fag?” Patterson denied it, but decided it was time to leave Maryland.
He took a year off from school and traveled for the first time to Europe. Seeing men kissing and holding hands in public made him realize there was a larger world out there than the one he was inhabiting. He came out to his family, went back to school and wound up becoming a two-time All America at guard.
Patterson says he is telling his story because “I don't want a 15- or 16-year-old kid to have to experience what I did,” hoping he can make a difference. Patterson is much more at peace with himself than when he was a scared yet wild college athlete.
“Nothing changes if nothing changes,” he said.