Carl Nassib celebrates a fumble recovery

In this Sept. 12, 2015, file photo, Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib (95) celebrates his second half interception with defensive end Garrett Sickels (90) during an NCAA college football game against Buffalo in State College. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

When Penn State and its fans got to know Carl Nassib back in 2015, it was clear he was a pretty courageous guy. Takes some courage, after all, just to walk on at Penn State when you never started a game in high school. Takes some courage to think that, someday, you were going to take the field. Takes some courage to put together one of the single most dominant seasons in the history of a storied college program.

Nassib had another courageous moment on Monday, when he announced in a video posted to his instagram account that he is gay. Many media outlets are calling the current Las Vegas Raiders defensive end the first openly gay player in the NFL, and hopefully that doesn’t diminish what Michael Sam meant for the gay community when, in 2014, the St. Louis Rams drafted him and he attempted to become the first openly gay man to make an NFL regular-season roster.

This much can be said about Nassib: He’ll very likely become the first openly gay man to play in an NFL game this fall. He started five games after signing a three-year contract with the Raiders heading into the 2020 season, and he has 20.5 career sacks in the NFL.

Nassib also announced that he’s donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a group that provides suicide prevention services to the LGBTQ community.

“Young LGBTQ kids are more than 5x more likely than their straight friends to consider suicide,” Nassib wrote on his instagram post. “For someone like me, who has been so lucky and cherishes every day, it brings me incredible sadness to think that our LGBTQ youth are at such an elevated risk for suicide. I feel an immense responsibility to help in any way I can — and you can too.

“Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid attempting suicide by 40%. Whether you’re a friend, a parent, a coach or a teammate — you can be that person.”

You won’t have to look very far to find someone commenting on social media or on one of the many stories written about Nassib since his announcement to find someone who is going to ask — rhetorically — “Who cares if he’s gay?”

Well, Nassib answered that question above pretty well.

The NFL has been around more than a century. It’s very safe to say, as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league tweeted (see above), that Carl Nassib is not the first gay man who has worn a Raiders uniform, or any NFL uniform, for that matter. The fact he felt comfortable enough to say it publicly is a pretty good sign of progress, but it’s also an indication we have a ways to go before everyone can feel comfortable living as their true selves in athletic arenas all over the world.

Who cares? Certainly, that kid who is not as accepted as Nassib, who may be thinking the worst about himself or herself, about the future. The first step toward being comfortable and safe is knowing you’re not alone, and now, no other NFL player who happens to also be gay will be. That’s a heck of a legacy for Carl Nassib, and a huge deal for the sport.