My-King Johnson is the top defensive end in the entire state of Arizona, a recruit so highly coveted that college football behemoths like UCLA and the University of Arizona pursued him. He chose Arizona. In doing so, Johnson has now become the first openly gay player to be given a scholarship to play for a major college football team.
In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson revealed that he has been out since he was 12 years old. He says he never once considered hiding his sexuality.
“I’m a very honest person,” Johnson told the Star. “I just don’t see how I could be living an honest, truthful life and have that in the background.”
Now, at 17, Johnson has racked up quite a football resume. Not only is he the best in his position in Arizona, he's ranked number 52 out of all the defensive ends in the country.
Only a handful of elite football players (those playing Division 1 college football and in the NFL) have ever come out as gay. Before Johnson, the most prominent out player was Michael Sam, who played for the University of Missouri. While his teammates were aware of his sexuality, Sam didn’t come out to the public until after his college career had ended.
Perhaps as encouraging as Johnson’s openness is the response from his soon-to-be defensive line coach, Vincent Amey.
Rather than serving up platitudes about how Johnson's gayness doesn’t matter, Amey told the Star that he’s “pretty excited" about Johnson’s impact—not just as an athlete, but as a pioneer for openly gay athletes in football.
"I can’t wait to be like, ‘Yeah, I got to coach the first openly gay kid to be an All-Pac-12 defensive end,' ” Amey said.