Being Out is a feature that looks at LGBTQ people in sports who have come out since Outsports first published in 1999. Today: Soccer player Adam Burnett.
It took a trip overseas to soccer-mad Europe to convince Adam Burnett to pursue a pro soccer career. And it took a serious injury to make him realize how much he loved the sport.
Burnett is a new breed of athlete who came out in high school and able to enter their collegiate careers without the extra burden of being in the closet.
Burnett came out as openly gay in 2018 while still a 17-year-old high school student in Missouri, where he was on the all-state list and helped his team to the state title.
Since then he has enrolled at Rockhurst University, a Division II school in Kansas City, whose coaches embraced his being out while recruiting him. He tore his ACL early in his freshman season and is redshirting and expects to play in his final four years of eligibility with designs of playing as a pro overseas.
On top of all of that, Burnett, 19, is happy in love with his boyfriend, Tom, a long-distance runner and triathlete who is 31 years older.
Here are Burnett’s answers to our Being Out questions.
What do you love the most about soccer?
It is my way to forget about anything going on in my life, a coping system. I love soccer, and my dream is to play professional soccer. I started and played every minute in the first five games of my college freshman season and had a free kick goal and two assists.
I then tore my ACL and am four months out of surgery. I go to physical therapy and work out with the team and on my own every day. I am already stronger than I was before and I will be even better once next season starts up. I will still be a freshman due to a medical redshirt and will be able to still have four years of eligibility. I promise I will work as hard as possible to make it to the next level.
What does it mean to you to be LGBTQ+ in sports?
I am a leader and love being an inspiration. I am openly gay and open about my relationship.
I am dating a 50-year-old man and am happier than ever. My family, my friends, my coaches, my peers and my teammates know I am dating him and are happy for me and respect me for how brave I am. I don’t care who thinks it’s wrong. It is my life and I am happy.
What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ kids in athletics or who want to participate in athletics, the kind of advice the younger you wish you had heard?
If you are your true self and you are confident about it, then people will love you. Your true self is your best self.
Who is someone who inspires you?
Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay MLS player. He is someone I have looked up to once I came out of my junior year of high school, and after I read his book. I’d love to meet him since our lives growing up are very similar.
What are you passionate/excited about right now?
My grades. In high school I had really bad grades, making it almost impossible to get a full ride scholarship at a Division I school. In my first semester at Rockhurst I finished with a 3.8 GPA, and I am going to do just as well this semester.
I am also passionate about my boyfriend, Tom. I love him and care about him a lot. After we met, we went on a few runs together. We knew each other for a year before officially dating. That year it was a big challenge for us because the only reason we didn’t date was because of the fear we had of what others would think. But the love we have for each other beats all of that.
Tom has been a marathon and triathlon runner since he was in his mid-20s. His best marathon time is 2 hours and 55 minutes and he runs the Boston Marathon every year. He is in as good a shape as me and more than most people my age.
We are really good for each other because we push each other to be better. We can always count on each other, we have fun together and we understand that work, school and soccer come first. We balance each other out and he is a good mentor for me when I need advice.
What is your most memorable sports moment?
Going overseas to the Netherlands and Germany over the summer and playing club soccer was an amazing experience and hopefully I can play professionally overseas.
I traveled to Germany and Holland and playing in those countries made me realize how much I wanted to become a professional soccer player. My select club team and I played youth professional teams and we never lost.
We also went to professional games and the crowds were insane. We were there for two weeks and it was one of the best times I have ever had. Training with other coaches overseas was a lot more challenging and you can tell how much more dedicated these athletes were.
Dedication, passion, talent and hard work are what you need to be successful and I believe I have it all.
Adam Burnett is a freshman at Rockhurst University in Kansas City majoring in Psychology and is a member of the men’s soccer team. He was born in Atlanta but moved to St. Louis when he was young and lived there until graduating from Parkway Central High School. After playing in college, he aspires to become a professional soccer player. He can be reached by email ([email protected]) and Instagram (Adamburnett24).
If you are out in sports in any capacity as openly LGBTQ and want to be featured in Being Out, drop Jim an email ([email protected]).