If there was one thing Roger never anticipated would be the hardest part of the NFL Combine experience, this was it.
“What’s the drug of choice on your campus?”
The 15-minute team interviews were more grueling than the workouts. Roger had done exceedingly well at the dashes and jumps and shuttles and throws, and had delivered sterling banalities in the Media Day interviews. His draft stock was rising every minute. And then there was this.
Roger blinked. The Richmond Rebels’ staff maintained poker faces throughout the interview. Other teams had been far more friendly, at least on the surface. These guys, well, Roger already hoped they wouldn’t be his new bosses.
“Well,” he smiled, “it’s Berkeley, so I’m going to guess it’s marijuana.”
They made notes, still unsmiling.
One of them finally made eye contact. “Do you like girls?”
“I beg your pardon?” Roger’s blood froze – did they know?
“Do you have a girlfriend? Are you in a relationship?”
“No, I’m not. I don’t. Have a girlfriend.”
Fear was quickly replaced with anger. He noticed the absence of a ring on the man’s finger. “Are you married? Divorced?”
“We’re asking the questions here.”
“Does your marital status impact your ability to do your job?” Roger’s steel showed in his voice, the steel he normally kept sheathed beneath his mild-mannered, off the field exterior.
Now they were all looking at him. Suspiciously. Because why wouldn’t a star QB, a total campus stud, have a girlfriend? If not a high school sweetheart he was going to marry the day after graduation, then he should have a national reputation as a cocksman/party animal.
The man put down his clipboard. “Thank you for your time.”
Fuckers! Roger fumed outside, no chance to burn off the stress with a fast run before the next interview. How dare they!
He knew the NFL wasn’t going to be an easy place to be gay. He knew that he’d have to hide it. But he’d figured on a “don’t ask don’t tell” environment.
“Yeah, but that’s Richmond, dude,” Brian said on the phone that night. “Deep South. Capitol of the Confederacy.”
“Well, I know I won’t be their draft pick now.”
“Right? Fuck them. You should have told them about your girlfriend, who lives in Canada.”
Roger laughed. They’d gone to see “Avenue Q,” the twisted puppet musical, when they’d been in New York for the Heisman ceremony. One of the songs was, yes, “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada,” sung by a closeted gay puppet.
“I know I’m going to have to be discreet, right? I know that. But to be asked that question out loud? Man.” He blew out a sigh.