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Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker is first known NFL player to be part of same-sex marriage

Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-16 17:45:36-05

A former Dallas Cowboys linebacker will become the first known NFL player to be a part of a same-sex marriage.

The New York Times reports that Jeff Rohrer, who played in 83 games during six seasons with the Cowboys from 1982-87, will make history when he marries Joshua Ross on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Rohrer, 59, was the Cowboys second-round pick in 1982.  He started 41 games with the franchise before he was phased out after injuries when Jimmy Johnson took over the team in 1989.

“If I had told the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s that I was gay, I would have been cut immediately,” Rohrer told The Times. “It was a different world back then; people didn’t want to hear that.”

Rohrer was a second-round draft pick out of Yale in 1982. He played sparingly with the Cowboys early in his career, but started at least 10 games with the team each of his final three seasons.

After missing the 1988 season with back surgery, Rohrer was cut in 1989.

Rohrer told the Times he remained in the closet until he met Ross, a skin-care expert, at a bar in 2015.

“If not for Josh, I’d still be there,” said Rohrer, who has two children from a previous marriage and has been divorced for about 10 years.

“When I got divorced, I said the hell with it, I’m going to do what I’ve always wanted to do,” Rohrer said. “Then I found Josh, and began to openly live the life I was born to live.”

Ross, 36, grew up in De Leon, Texas, only a few hours away from where Rohrer played ball with Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

After his football career ended, Rohrer became an award-winning producer of television commercials in Los Angeles. That’s where he met his soon-to-be partner.

“Josh can be a little bit of a brat sometimes,” Rohrer told the Times, “but I love him to death.”

The NFL has had only a few players who have come out as gay after their careers ended. Most recently, former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay player ever drafted by an NFL team. He participate in training camp with the St. Louis Rams and briefly was a member of the Cowboys’ practice squad but never played in a regular-season game.

NFL officials have changed their attitude over the years, former NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello told the Times.

“While coming out was taboo back in Jeff’s day, the N.F.L. community is now very sensitive about this subject,” said Aiello, who was on the Cowboys’ public relations staff when Rohrer joined the team. “The league office and the teams have done a lot of work to ensure tolerance and inclusion in the workplace. There’s now a lot of sophistication about these kinds of issues.”

Aiello praised Rohrer for his courage to speak openly about his upcoming marriage.

“Jeff was a bright and very personable guy that everyone liked,” Mr. Aiello said. “People who really know Jeff will be happy for him, and proud of him for living his truth.”