Will Sheridan was a four-year starter for the Villanova Wildcats from 2003-2007. During his freshman year he came out to his roommate and his life was forever changed. Sheridan has embraced who he is and has become a role model to young people as well as to others all over the world. He’s not just an ex-basketball player; he is a gay man with a G.I.A.N.T. voice. He has transformed the face of sports and now has set his sights on spreading positivity through the arts.
The GM’s Perspective: I’m sure that there are many out there who are unfamiliar with your story. Can you let the readers know what it’s/what it was like being the only the second Division 1 basketball player to publicly come out as gay?
Will Sheridan: I didn’t even know there was one before so…I felt like I was in a position where I was uninformed about the community and I didn’t know the world was so big and there was so many people like me. I was a normal college kid going through normal college stuff, but it happened that I was gay. I was confident about it in a way that I think a lot of people were surprised by.
The first week of new student orientation I was in my room with my roommate Mike Nardi and he asked to use my computer. I casually said he could, but after I thought about it (and he was using it) I said, while you’re on there you might find things on there that aren’t for you. That’s how the whole conversation started. It wasn’t as if there was this big dramatic moment or scandal. It was more casual.
I was really guarded by being on the basketball team. I was popular, successful, personable, and I also played basketball. It didn’t give people the chance to not like me. At Villanova, there’s 6,500 undergrads and a pretty small campus. It felt like I had a good circle of friends on the team and not on the team that heard me out when I was going through anything personal or struggling with something. I tried to date a girl for six months in college and this was after being in a relationship with a guy. It was something I was struggling with. That freshman year I came out to her and at that point I had to tell my parents. It was a journey, but my confidence and my personality made me a little more well adjusted than others might have been.
GMs: I can only imagine what you were going through. Not only trying to make it on a top-level national basketball program, but going through college and getting an education.
WS: A lot of that comes from playing sports. Sports really exposed my character. It taught me how to have a relationship or play or communicate with all types of different people at different levels of intelligence. It makes you capable to work with everyone and helped me relate to more people.
GMs: I can say the same thing. Without sports and the relationships I built, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. The relationships you build with your teammates and your coaches, in addition to the leadership qualities you adapt, it’s all transferable traits that help you grow personally and professionally.
GMs: Were there any people or other athletes that helped you along the way or is this something you handled on your own accord?
WS: To be honest, I was working on it for 19 years up until that point. I didn’t really know of any other out athletes. You have to credit the heterosexual athletes that helped me like my best friend Mike Nardi and all my teammates on the team who were my best friends. They should definitely be recognized as helping me through this process. Without out them I couldn’t imagine how crazy it would have been. Other than that, it was my friends from high school and a few girlfriends I met in college.
GMs: According to your previous interviews, when you told your team at Villanova over the course of a few years, nothing really changed. The support was there just as it always was. Was it surprising (the reactions of your teammates) considering all the negatives attitudes and stereotypes that are out there?
WS: I think it’s very unique and should be appreciated. All my relationships with my teammates were very genuine and we were going through something together. You have to remember that during my freshman year we went to the NIT. We were a good team with great players and had one of the top recruiting classes. There was a lot of pressure to be successful. Once my sophomore year came we reached 2005 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. We knew we’d been through the worst of the worst to the best of the best. We had that bond and I think that really made it not matter if I was gay or straight. That in itself is unique and very rare. It was special.
GMs: Have other players/people reached out to you to for guidance over the years?
WS: Oh, absolutely! The response was crazy. The ESPN article came out in 2011 and the response has been/was very supportive. I’ve met so many other gay athletes. I also participate in the NGBA (National Gay Basketball Association). I work with Athlete Ally and have been on Outsports many times. I do meet a bunch of athletes all the time, but specifically, I met a swimmer at Villanova that emailed me just before he came out. He asked for advice, but he had it together. He didn’t seem scared, he just wanted advice and that’s a good sign. You didn’t get the feeling like he would try to do something harmful to himself. I actually just saw him at school and he thanked me. I told him I was just livin’ at that point in my life. If your neighbor comes up to you and asks for advice you should give it to them. I told him he should just be honest with himself, be confident, and trust the relationships with his friends.
I used to get a lot of facebook messages and emails from people from who, to be honest with you, were lonely. The more of a minority you make yourself by coming out or make yourself unique, the more people appreciate you for you. On the other hand, you do end up isolating yourself. People make assumptions about you or about the way you look or the way you dress. Even the fact that you’re out alienates you. People really did ask for advice and as long as I could do it I’ll give it to them.
GMs: In addition to your basketball pedigree, you are an inspiring hip-hop/rap artist currently on tour. I’ve also read that you are involved in the fashion industry? How did all that come about?
WS: I live in the greatest city in the world (New York City) and when I first moved here I used my degree from Villanova. I was writing for Source Magazine and covering all these Indie artists. I also had a fashion column and did some guest editing. It was really great. But I was exposed to all the hip-hop acts and live venue acts that were having showcases. I looked at them and thought I could do this. I was already doing spoken word and some poetry performances, which weren’t that big of a deal since I performed in front of thousands during my time with the Wildcats. I decided to try it out and put together a project that led to some pretty interesting live acts. I also put on a showcase in the Lower East Side that exposed me to a whole bunch of other artists. I was putting on their works and that energy has come back around. I’m on my fifth project and second album. I feel good.
The four city West Coast tour is actually over (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Portland). I don’t have a booking agent or manager. It’s all hard work and my focus. As far as what you’ve heard about me in fashion, I’ve worked for some of the number one retailers in the world like Moncler and Stella McCartney and I do other collaborations with other artists that inspire me. I wear what I want and do what I want and I think that because I’m an ex-athlete and performer and I’m 6’8”, people just let me get away with it!! By living my life that way I want I’m empowering people and allowing people to live how they are comfortable.
GMs: What’s your motivation when you sit down with that pad and paper and brainstorm for your next song/video.
WS: That’s a great question. I always look ahead and know what I want to talk about. I usually target the audience and think of the live performance. You also have to think of the production value. Is the concept realistic? Sometimes I sit down with other songwriters and they’re so abstract that we don’t get any work done. I’m really inspired by energy and that can include love or hate. Words are important to me and you don’t have to use anything crazy to have an impactful message. It’s funny though. I’m still an outsider in the art world. I’ll be talking about Serena Williams or Kobe Bryant in his final year and people will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.
This most recent project was inspired by the adversity I was going through. It took me 22 months to finish the album. I dealt with being in love, being lonely and being abandoned. The studio I was working with decided they were going to shut down. I quit my day job, done different festivals, been to multiple cities, met many great people, and have been underwhelmed to overwhelmed. It was just life. When I sit down I try to reflect on what’s going on around me and put it in a message that anyone can listen to and understand. My goal is to touch everyone. While I was creating my path in music I was trying to define that to myself first. Now I’m in a place where I can look to the future and people can relate to it. It’s not internal anymore. I was like that as a player. I feel comfortable in that position because I was a high-energy player and now I’m a high-energy performer. It’s consistent. I haven’t changed. I’ve evolved.
GMs: Many times I talk about leadership and dedication in my articles about athletes. It seems you’ve really taken a leadership role when it comes to helping young people. You never look at a roadblock as a negative. You take everything and turn it into a positive. What does that comment mean to you?
WS: Obstacles are opportunities. I’m always realistic with myself. This is my dream life, but I’m always realistic with what I can and cannot do. If I can do it, how long will it take? It’s not only in my music, but in my life. I don’t do many talks yet or college tours yet, but my goal would be to inspire youth or young adults to follow their dreams and be realistic about it. I’ve learned a lot by dealing with obstacles from sports also. It was an institution my whole life. I have such a different skillset from most of my peers and that helps me in the long run.
GMs: What message do you want to send out to, not only the LGBT community, but to society as a whole about being yourself and striving for your dreams?
WS: Going In And Never Timid. You’re big enough to be who you are. You’re a G.I.A.N.T. is and all-inclusive saying. My message is clear. I come from a good foundation. I’ve had the love and support of a lot of people, not just my mom and dad. To LGBT youth, you can find other people in addition to other adults who can give you proper guidance. If you’re lucky enough to find that and follow it you’ll be just fine. As far as the world, this is a new world with new rules, new guidelines, and new expectations. Moving forward, we must make ensure that we educate and not let people be insecure about who they are as individuals.