A story making some waves out west came to my attention recently, and probably not for the same reasons it's attracting the attention of a lot of folks.
An article from Tucson.com on Arizona football commit My-King Johnson, a defensive line recruit who came out to his family at 12 years old, has been circulating and growing in popularity over the past few days. In the piece, a lot of Johnson's background and journey is discussed, but what really captured my attention was the reaction of the Arizona coach who was recruiting him gave him when Johnson confessed that he was openly gay.
Wildcat defensive line coach Vince Amey's response to Johnson's straightforwardness was seven simple, and powerful words; "We want you to be a Wildcat," and according to the article, that's exactly what Johnson needed to hear. Not too long after that, Johnson flipped his commitment from UCLA and decided instead to play for Rich Rod, Amey, and the Wildcats.
Amey went on to explain his personal outlook on being at the forefront of what many folks would consider controversial, and a story similar to one that dominated headlines when Mizzou's Michael Sam came out during NFL Draft preparations just a few years ago.
Here are Amey's thoughts from the article:
“When I found out, I really couldn’t sleep,” Amey said. “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.’ I said, ‘When the players find out, especially my room, I’m going to tell (those) dudes: ‘Look, you gotta have his back.’”
“Everybody’s got their own background. Who they are, what they are. … I’m fine with it, and honestly I can’t wait to get him here and get it going.”
That's an absolutely admirable outlook on a topic that a chunk of the country continues to battle wrapping their heads around. As coaches in charge of leading young men in football, and life, we can all take a page from Amey's stance and reflect on it if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.