It's a story most of us might have missed. It's not about men's basketball or football. It's not even about volleyball which I know a lot of us love and follow. This wasn't really even a story about Purdue sports. This was a story about one person. This was a story about Bree Horrocks. This was her story. For those of you that don't know Bree Horrocks is on the women's basketball team at our beloved Purdue University. Being a division one athlete has it's positives and negatives. There are things you gain, notoriety, a shot at fame, and some things you give up. One of the things you give up is your privacy. Until Monday night Bree Horrocks still had hers. Monday night Bree Horrocks came out as a lesbian.
Monday night Bree Horrocks stood in front of a friendly crowd and announced what her friends and family had known for a year or more. She was a lesbian. In doing so she became the first openly gay athlete to compete in a revenue sport at Purdue University. There have been athletes who have come out after their playing days, Stephanie White and Dorien Bryant come to mind, but neither of them were publicly out during their playing days. Both though were at the event at Purdue Monday night to discuss LGBTQ issues. There's something beautiful about that.
White and Bryant both spent their playing days at Purdue denying who they really were, hiding part of themselves. While I'm too young to have been on campus during White's stay at Purdue I was a student during Dorien's great run at wide receiver. I remember hearing rumblings that Bryant might be gay but I just didn't care. First off, what business of mine was it? Second, and probably more important, who cares if he was? What would that have changed about his ability to play football? I didn't know Dorien Bryant the man. I knew him only as you know any other athlete. As long as he continued to make plays I couldn't care less what he did in his private life. After Dorien left Purdue though he did officially come out and gave an in-depth interview to Philadelphia magazine about his experience. In the article, which I would suggest everyone read, Bryant talks about his struggles to maintain a bit of a dual identity. It's heartbreaking. It led Bryant to drink more than he should've, struggle with his temper, and worst of all it led him to give up football despite calls from interested NFL teams. Think about that, Dorien Bryant, one of the great WRs in Purdue history, gave up football simply because of who he loved. What a terrible situation to find yourself in.
Yet last night, a current Purdue women's basketball player stood up in front of a crowd and proudly declared that she is a lesbian. No outrage on the internet, that I've seen, the world is still spinning, and that young lady will continue to play on Purdue's basketball team and make us all proud each and every night. I'd wager that most of you won't even remember this in two years when she is on the floor. What an amazing story. How far we've come in just 10-15 years since Dorien Bryant had to self-medicate to get through his daily routine.
When I was at Purdue I roomed with another guy from the same small town. We'd grown up together. We'd known each other since we were in second grade. We lived down the road from each other in our small town. For two years at Purdue we lived together but I wouldn't necessarily say we had the same friendship as before. My roommate was distant, he hung out with a much different crowd than I did, and seemed changed from the guy I knew growing up. That's not a bad thing though, people change, people evolve and if he was happy I was happy for him. The next two years in the dorms became a bit of a roller coaster. His attitude was up and down, we argued, hell, once it got so heated I pushed him over a chair and onto the floor. All because he wouldn't answer the dorm phone he was sitting right next to. Yes kids there used to be land lines in all dorm rooms. We struggled like this on and off for two years. He struggled with his grades and we struggled with our friendship. Junior year we each went out separate ways and lived elsewhere. I felt like I had lost a friend and I'd like to think he felt the same.
Two years later I received an instant message from my former roommate telling me that he was gay. He just wanted to me to know. I was shocked. It had been something I always suspected but never knew for sure. Like Dorien Bryant he had been living a bit of a double life. It took its toll. I remember running into him at his job shortly thereafter and things seemed back to normal. He seemed like the guy I remembered. I can't imagine the weight that was lifted off of his shoulders with those two words, "I'm gay". It seems so simple to type it out like that but I'm sure it's anything but. It takes courage to be yourself, gay or not. Last night Bree Horrocks showed her courage and her true self and I applaud her for it. I hope her courage rubs off on people like my friend. I hope she's shown people that it's okay to be who you are and nothing else.
As I read the story of Bree last night I couldn't help but be reminded of my friend. We texted each other a bit last night and caught up on some things. I wanted to be sure he was okay with me telling a bit of his story. He was. I'm proud that Purdue University responded not with a chorus of boos but with a "meh" as Bree made her announcement. I'm glad that Bree won't have the same problems that Dorien Bryant or my roommate had. I'm glad she can be herself, and nothing but herself. Today, more so than most days, I'm proud to be a Boilermaker.