Kwame Harris, who played football for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, told CNN on Friday that he is gay.
According to a Los Angeles Times report , the former offensive tackle said he regrets not being open about his sexuality while he was still playing.
Harris said he "didn't see those two things as being compatible," according to the report.
Harris was always a stand-out football player, from high school to Stanford University to first round pick in the 2003 draft.
He played six seasons in the pros.
He said he's always known he is gay, but concealed it until recently.
"I wasn't publicly out until, I don't know, beginning of the Super Bowl when it was publicized."
It was publicized after an alleged altercation with an ex-boyfriend outside a restaurant and a comment made on a talk show by a current 49ers player who said there were "no gay people on the team." That player later apologized for adding, "They got to get up out of here if they do."
For Harris, the burden almost became too much to bear.
"You want to escape this despair, this turmoil and maybe your mind goes to dark places sometimes, but, I would just say that I, I'm happy today. I'm glad that I didn't actually-- that those were just ideas and I didn't act on any of those things. And that, you know, it does get better."
Harris said he is speaking out now because he wants people who are gay athletes or still in the closet to realize their feelings aren't unique, but quite common feelings. He wants them to not feel alone in questioning their sexuality because he had those same questions.