Arizona Wildcats freshman defensive end My-King Johnson is set to become one of the first active openly gay scholarship players in major-college football history when the season begins in September, but head coach Rich Rodriguez said at Pac-12 Media Days that he “hopes it’s to the point where it’s not a story.”
“And for us that’s the way we’re treating it,” he said. “His personal lifestyle should not be a story. What should be a story is how he’s going to play on the field. So the way I’m treating My-King or (26-year-old quarterback) Donavan Tate is like they’re any other of the newcomers. When they start making plays and being the guys that’s getting sacks or throwing touchdowns passes, then let’s talk about that as a story.”
Johnson was a three-star recruit out of Tempe, Ariz., and told the Wildcats’ coaching staff he was gay during the recruiting process.
They had no issue with it.
"When I found out, I really couldn't sleep," Arizona defensive line coach Vince Amey told the Daily Star. "And it wasn't like I was uncomfortable with it. I was just like, all right, it's different, it's new. ... I said, 'Look, you are who you are, I am who I am, and I'm going to coach you the same way. I'm going to treat you the same way. I'm going to get on you the same way as everybody else. There's no difference. You do what you do.'“
Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 225 pound defensive end, was one of the top pass rushers in the state of Arizona in high school. The former UCLA commit had 22 sacks in his junior season and 22.5 sacks in his senior season.
Arizona lacked a consistent pass rush in 2016, generating only 22 sacks as a team, and Johnson could help the Wildcats immediately in that department as a freshman.
If he does, Rodriguez wants that to be the storyline around him, not his sexual orientation — and Rodriguez said Johnson feels the same way.
“He’s going to be hands off story-wise with all the other freshmen. ... because we’re not interested, and I know My-King is not interested in having it be a huge story,” Rodriguez said.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire