A day after he publicly came out as the first openly gay wrestler signed with the WWE, Darren Young described himself as very happy.
“I’ve been suppressing these feelings for so long in my life,” said Young, who’s real name is Fred Rosser, on the Today show Friday. “I just need to be happy. And I, to the day I’m six feet under, I will always say, ‘I want to be happy.’ And I’m happy now.”
It wasn’t always so, said Young, who for years lived in fear that someone would out him and jeopardize his career.
“I was terrified, and I think anybody in my shoes would feel the same way.” he said. “It took some guts.”
Young stepped out as the first openly gay WWE athlete on Thursday, when a TMZ videographer stopped him at LAX. Young said on Today that he felt it was just “the right place, and the right time.”
“Why not?” he said. “I feel that by coming out, I’m going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
Following the news, Young received a swell of support from colleagues and fans. The WWE said in a statement that the organization was “proud of Darren Young,” and would “continue to support him as a WWE Superstar.”
Young’s announcement comes in a year when several other gay athletes have upended the sports world by coming out. The 33-year-old said on Today that he spoke with another trailblazer, NBA center Jason Collins, who in May became the first openly gay male athlete actively playing in a major pro-sport.
“[Jason Collins] gave me some advice on how to handle this whole situation, and how to cope with it, and how to be positive and be a strong individual,” said Young, who added that at the end of the day, he wants to be a role model.
“I have the best of both worlds,” said Young. “I’m in love, and I wrestle for one of the greatest organizations in the world, the WWE. I’m a lucky man.”