Byron Perkins, HBCUs First Openly Gay Football Player Pursues 2024 NFL Draft

The defensive back for the Hampton University Pirates announced his plans in an Instagram post this past Saturday.

Byron Perkins x Hampton University DB
Byron Perkins x Hampton University DB | Instagram/@byron.perkinz

HBCU’s first openly gay football player, Byron Perkins has announced his plans to enter the 2024 NFL Draft. The Hampton University Pirates defensive back released a statement this past Saturday via Instagram.

In the post, Perkins thanked his family, friends, and football staff for their support during his time at Hampton University.

“I would like to thank my family, friends, and coaches for all the love and support that has been given to me over the years,” Perkins said. “Since I was a child, I have had aspirations of being elite. Not just an elite player, but an elite person.”

Perkins is also the first openly gay HBCU football player to declare for the draft. In October 2022, Perkins became the first HBCU football player to publicly come out as gay. He said the decision meant him “no longer running away from himself.”

“I’m gay, let it be known that this is not a ‘decision’ or a ‘choice.’ Yes, this is who I am, this is who I’ve been, and this is who I’m going to be. Simply put, I am who I am.” Perkins said in statement.

More college and professional football players have opened shared their sexuality in recent years after University of Missouri’s Michael Sam publicly came out in February 2014. As of now, Sam and Perkins remain the only two Black football players to do so thus far. Perkins said in an interview with Outsports, that he hopes his openness will lend assistance to other Black men at HBCUs.

“Especially at an HBCU, young Black gay men need an outlet,” he said. “They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HBCU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.

“It’s about that kid who’s going to see this and think he can be himself too.”

The 2024 89th NFL Draft will take place April 25th – April 27th in Detroit, Michigan.