Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ex-Chiefs tackle Ryan O'Callaghan reveals he's gay, considered suicide

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 21: Tackle Ryan O'Callaghan #68 of the New England Patriots watches play against the Miami Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium on October 21, 2007 in Miami, Florida.  The Pats won 49 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 21: Tackle Ryan O'Callaghan #68 of the New England Patriots watches play against the Miami Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium on October 21, 2007 in Miami, Florida. The Pats won 49 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Ryan O'Callaghan lived a tortured existence throughout his four-season NFL career, including two with the Chiefs, and considered suicide.

Such was the life of a gay man who hadn't told anyone of his sexual orientation.

O'Callaghan's life began to turn in a positive direction with the help of conversations with a woman who currently serves as a UMKC vice chancellor and then-Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.

O'Callaghan's story is detailed in an story by Cyd Zeigler titled, "Former Patriots and Chiefs tackle Ryan O'Callaghan comes out as gay."

O'Callaghan appeared in 10 games for the Chiefs in 2010 but the team placed him on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury before the 2011 season. O'Callaghan wouldn't play again.

That's when the spiral accelerated. In the story, O'Callaghan said prescriptions were easy to obtain and one day he downed 30 Vicodin.

"I was abusing painkillers, no question," O'Callaghan said in the story. "It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay. I just didn't worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin."

His thoughts turned to suicide. O'Callaghan started to make plans, including building a small cabin on his property outside Kansas City, where he intended to end his life.

In 2011, O'Callaghan was encouraged by the Chiefs to visit Susan Wilson, a UMKC official who has counseled players on drug abuse. Wilson is a licensed clinical psychologist and serves as the Vice Chancellor of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

Wilson told The Star that she soon realized the issue wasn't simply pain killers, and Wilson became the first person O'Callaghan told of his sexual orientation.

"We talked about how his fear was driving him to want to commit suicide," she said, "and it was a fear of what the team would say, what his parents would say, fear about what his friends would say.

"What I told him was, before taking that drastic step that has no return, the best way to confront fear is to gather information. First start with someone you feel comfortable with and see if your worst fears come true. See if they reject you or scorn you."

O'Callaghan put in a call to Pioli.

They had worked together in New England, the team that had drafted O'Callaghan from California and where he spent his first two seasons. Pioli was the vice president of player personnel there when he was hired by the Chiefs as general manager in 2009. The Chiefs claimed O'Callaghan off waivers from the Patriots in September 2009, and he was in the starting lineup at right tackle within one month.

This time, O'Callaghan would reach out to Pioli, who had known about the drug abuse, according to the story. O'Callaghan, then 27, informed Pioli that he was gay.

"People like me are supposed to react in a certain way," Pioli told OutSports. "What Ryan didn't know is how many gay people I've had in my life."

Their conversation, Pioli told O'Callaghan, changed nothing. They were friends and Pioli said he was there to support him.

O'Callaghan started coming out to family and friends and found support. Among those he shared his story with was Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt.

O'Callaghan's life has turned. Today, lives near his family in Redding, Calif., and has done work for a local LGBT organization. He told OutSports that he wanted to share his story to help other gay people who struggle in communicating their concerns or fears, especially those who, like him, considered suicide.

"I see it as a final form of liberation," Wilson said.

Ex-Chiefs tackle Ryan O'Callaghan reveals he's gay, considered suicide 06/21/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 10:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  2. Rays journal: Blake Snell continues roll in win over Cubs (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was still a game in the fifth inning when LHP Blake Snell walked the leadoff batter, then allowed a single. One swing by the Cubs' Ian Happ (22 home runs) could put a dent in the Rays' three-run lead.

    Blake Snell allows just two hits in pitching seven scoreless innings.
  3. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    One success story of this lost season is the emergence of LHP Blake Snell as the frontline starter the Rays projected. After a rough start and two demotions, he has been rolling, Wednesday's solid seven innings making him 4-0, 2.57 in his past eight starts.

  5. Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Orioles

    7:05, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    This is a 2017 photo of Matt Andriese of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)