A retired football player is set to become the first player from the National Football League, former or current, to enter into a same-sex marriage.
Jeff Rohrer, 59, played for the Dallas Cowboys from the years 1982 to 1989. Previous to his NFL career, he also played high school football and also played for Yale University before being drafted to America’s Team.
In an interview published on Wednesday in the New York Times, he made public the fact that he is gay — and is set to marry his boyfriend, Joshua Ross, a celebrity aesthetician and a founder of SkinLab.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some people out there who have a negative reaction to this, and I’m fine with it,” Rohrer said about his announcement, according to reporting from People.
Many have been surprised by the announcement — one friend even sent back a wedding invite from the couple, believing it to be a joke. But reception to the news has been welcomed by Rohrer’s friends and family members.
“I’ve given at least five people heart attacks with this news,” Rohrer added.
“But for the most part, many of my closest friends, including some of my former teammates with the Cowboys, could not have been more happy and supportive.”
— Cyd Zeigler (@CydZeigler) November 14, 2018
The couple currently live in Los Angeles. Rohrer has two teenage children and was previously married to a woman, although that marriage fell apart. When it did, he decided he didn’t want to live the lie any longer.
“[W]hen I got divorced, I said the hell with it, I’m going to do what I’ve always wanted to do. Then I found Josh (Ross), and began to openly live the life I was born to live.”
The two met in 2015 when Rohrer was still “completely in the closet,” he said.
“If not for Josh, I’d still be in there.”
Football was a big part of why Rohrer, who now works in media, stayed quiet about his sexuality. In his interview, he explained that the 1980s was a different climate for gay men, especially in the NFL.
“If I had told the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s that I was gay, I would have been cut immediately. It was a different world back then, people didn’t want to hear that,” he said.
His football life is long behind him, however. Ross didn’t even know Rohrer was a former NFL player until several months into their relationship. He said he had an instant attraction to Rohrer because of his “unselfishness.”
“I guess that came from being a husband and a father, and always making sure his family came first,” Ross said about his fiance.