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Openly gay CSU football player hopes to inspire others by living authentically

Freshman defensive lineman Kennedy McDowell suffered a setback this season with a head injury, but is thriving in his truth.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Kennedy McDowell has faced some challenges in his first year with the Colorado State Rams, but living authentically is not one of them.

"I am openly gay, I've been openly gay since 7th or 8th grade," he said.

Kennedy is a freshman defensive lineman who is flying a bit under the radar, but his impact has the ability to move mountains.

"It's not the first time someone told me 'I didn't know about gay people before you but you changed my mind,' and that's something great to hear," he said. "I can be gay and be a football player but I can still be your friend."

When he traveled from Texas to Fort Collins for his official recruiting visit, the Rams welcomed him with open arms.

"They were like, 'you play football, dude,'" he said nonchalantly. "Coach Norvell felt like a father when I got here. He felt like my dad."

Roughly halfway through the season, Kennedy McDowell the football player, had to take a step back. During the second half kickoff of the Boise State game in Fort Collins, Kennedy suffered a head injury.

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"I didn't know what year it was, I didn't know the month, I just woke up in the hospital and that was it," he said.

It was that unfortunate event that led him to truly understand how much his team loved him and cared about him like family.

"It warmed my heart, it really did," he said. "I saw my teammates on the field huddled around me and the way that they were worried about me when I came back, I felt comfortable. I felt comfort, just straight comfort, like everyone was there for me. I was overwhelmed."

Comfort is key. Kennedy is comfortable in the man that he's become and loves living his truth. He hopes that he can be an inspiration for others walking a similar path.

"I want to inspire people. There's a lot of queer athletes out there and some of them are in the closet and that's totally okay," Kennedy said. "I just want to say love everyone and make sure that you love yourself, because if you can't love yourself, then how are you gonna love someone else?"

As of the Border War matchup with Wyoming, Kennedy is still out with concussion symptoms, but hopes to return at some point later this season.

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