Kwame Harris, a former offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, told CNN in a report Friday that he was gay and now regrets not being open about his sexuality while he was a pro football player.
Harris said he would sometimes have disturbing thoughts about covering up the fact that he was gay while playing and "didn't see those two things as being compatible."
"You want to escape the despair, this turmoil and maybe your mind goes to dark places sometimes," Harris said. "I'm happy today, and I'm glad they were just ideas and I didn't act on any of them."
Harris, who played at 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, admitted "if I could have done it differently, I'd like to think I would find the strength or find the fortitude or grace to kind of make the hard decision" to let people know he was gay.
Harris, the 26th overall selection in the 2003 NFL draft, was a star at Stanford. He retired from the NFL in 2008, but became a focal point of discussion at the Super Bowl this year when it was mentioned that he had been in an altercation recently with a former boyfriend.
"I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure what their sexuality is, to know those are common feelings," Harris said in the interview. "Don't feel alone in having them.
"I'm gay and I'm a former athlete and I think I'm a pretty normal guy."