Now in his seventies, Dave Kopay made history in 1975 when, after almost 10 years as an NFL running back on teams like the 49ers and the Redskins, he told a newspaper reporter something no other professional athlete had ever said before: "I'm gay." Although his 1977 book, The David Kopay Story, was an instant bestseller, he's never felt comfortable being celebrated, as he puts it, for being himself. "I just feel good about what I've done."
But Last year, after Michael Sam became the first out gay NFL player, Kopay met the young athlete -- a clear product of his trailblazing path so long ago. As Michael Sam tells Esquire: "The man is still strong. When he shook my hand, he almost broke it. He asked me why I was coming out, and I told him it was because of my boyfriend. 'Do you love him?' he asked. I said, 'Yeah, I love him a lot.' And he said, 'Good, remember that love between you and him, it's going to help you through the process.' And I do, because it was a difficult process to bear."
As he also made clear in the same interview: "If I want to kiss my boyfriend, I'm gonna kiss him. If they want to film it, that's their problem. Don't be mad at me for sharing a huge moment in my life with someone I love." The couple have since become engaged to be married.