Esera Tuaolo, who played nine seasons as a defensive tackle in the NFL, will kick off Augusta University’s new Multicultural Series discussing his experience as a gay football player.
“The dream to succeed in the NFL and achieve all that football had to offer was at times a nightmare,” Tuaolo recounts in his autobiography Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL. “I struggled to survive the combative, macho world dominated by a culture that despised who I really am.”
The free event, which is open to the public, will take place at noon on Thursday at the Jaguar Student Activities Center Ballroom. The first 70 students to arrive will get free lunch. Tuaolo will also be speaking to faculty and staff at 9 a.m. on Thursday in the JSAC Ballroom.
Tuaolo played for five NFL teams as a defensive tackle from 1991 to 1999. In his second to the last season, he made it to Super Bowl XXXIII, playing for the Atlanta Falcons, but his team ended up losing to the Denver Broncos 34-19. He was credited with the last tackle on Broncos quarterback John Elway.
“A routine play, but it terrified me,” Tuaolo wrote in his autobiography. “What if one of those billion people watching recognized me as the stranger he had picked up in a gay bar? All he had to do was out me to the press and the story would be all over the headlines: ‘Gay Man Makes Final Tackle in Super Bowl.’ My football career would be finished.”
In 2002, after being retired from the NFL for three years, Tuaolo came out as gay, according to his website. Since then, he has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community and has spoken out against homophobia.
Tuaolo has also had a singing career. He is the first NFL player to sing the national anthem before a game and then start it. In 2017, he was a contestant in The Voice, and his blind audition in which he sang “Rise Up” has more than 3 million views on YouTube.
The Multicultural Series is replacing the annual Diversity Summit and will feature speakers and programs year round. The goal is to create an ongoing dialogue about diversity and multiculturalism on campus.
The series is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Student Life and Engagement and the Diversity and Inclusion Alignment Committee. Programs will be hosted on both the Summerville and Health Sciences campuses.