My-King Johnson is the latest millennial to eschew the closet, becoming the first active openly gay scholarship player in Division I football history.
“I’m just here to play football,” the 17-year-old tweeted this weekend.
Known to his friends and family as “King,” the 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end starred at Tempe High School. The Arizona Republic reports that he signed with the home-state Wildcats after verbally committing to Pac-12 Conference rival UCLA.
King reportedly told the Arizona defensive line coach Vincent Amey that he was gay during the recruiting process. Johnson said that Amey replied, “We want you to be a Wildcat.”
“When I found out, I really couldn’t sleep,” Amey said, according to the Arizona Republic. “And it wasn’t like I was uncomfortable with it. I was just like, all right, it’s different, it’s new. ... I said, ‘Look, you are who you are, I am who I am and I’m going to coach you the same way. I’m going to treat you the same way. I’m going to get on you the same way as everybody else. There’s no difference. You do what you do.’”
Amey also said he stressed that all his players should give King their support.
“I said, ‘When the players find out, especially my room, I’m going to tell [those] dudes: Look, you gotta have his back.’”
King says that he was 12 when he came out to his friends and family. He was raised by a teen mom and has two siblings, A-Queen and Nadette. He chose to live with his grandmother in Arizona after his mom and sisters moved to Seattle for work. His father was not very present in his life, drifting in and out of jail.
Yet family and friends describe the teen as smart and quick-witted, and his mom calls him an “old soul.” He played tuba in the Tempe High School band for two years, performing at halftime while wearing his football jersey and cleats. He maintains a 3.8 GPA.
According to the Arizona Republic, when he was a baby, a doctor heard his name and his eyes widened.
“That’s one hell of a name for a guy to have to live up to,” the doctor told his mother.
“My name definitely motivates me,” King said. “When someone’s looking down at a roster, or they’re looking at a page, they’re going to say . . . let me see what he’s about.”