NFL defensive end Ryan Russell published a powerfully honest essay on ESPN, in which he officially came out as bisexual. The 27-year-old athlete, who was a fifth round draft of the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, and played two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrote, “Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly. I want to live my dream of playing the game I’ve worked my whole life to play, and being open about the person I’ve always been.”
After shoulder surgery sidelined Russell, and being released by the Buffalo Bills just before the start of the 2018 season, he is not only looking to return to the field once more, but to do so without having to hide his true sexuality. He wrote, “Those two objectives shouldn’t be in conflict. But judging from the fact that there isn’t a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the NHL, brings me pause. I want to change that – for me, for other athletes who share these common goals, and for the generations of LGBTQ athletes who will come next.”
An hour after the essay was published, Russell took to Instagram to introduce the world to his boyfriend, Corey O’Brien. He captioned the photo of them on the beach without any ambiguity, “Love is faithful, Love is kind, It doesn’t brag or boast, But when I tell the world you’re mine, I tend to brag the most.”
Corey posted the exact same photo of the couple on his Instagram page, except instead of a black and white filter, he posted the picture in color. The professional dancer from Los Angeles captioned the post, “This man is the top headline on @espn this morning for speaking his truth as a player in the NFL and as my boyfriend. I couldn’t be more proud #NFL.”
Russell left a message in the comments section writing, “Mine” with a heart-eyed emoji.
Russell mentioned in his essay that some people knew about his sexual orientation, and that it’s been difficult keeping up a false front. “Though I confided in close friends and family and gave myself permission to date both men and women discreetly, I deprived myself the basic privilege of living an open life. That meant I had to be strategic and cautious about meeting guys or getting involved with them during the regular season. It also meant that even though I was building important friendships on my team, I couldn’t be authentic or honest about who I am or what was going on in my life.”
Here’s what you need to know about Russell’s boyfriend…
1. Corey O’Brien Is a Professional Dancer
While Russell trains hard to return and play in the NFL, O’Brien trains hard in and out of the dance studio, and is represented by Go 2 Talent Agency. After studying at the premiere dance academy in Philadelphia, The Rock School, Ryan moved to New York City to pursue his dreams being a professional dancer, and has worked consistently ever since.
According to his website, one of Corey’s first gigs was being cast in Royal Caribbeans’s cruise ship productions, where he spent six months performing at sea. Afterward, Corey toured with The Aluminum Show in Brazil and Spain, and with the WOW Show in Israel. He also appeared as a contestant on MTV’s reality series, Beyond Dance.
2. Corey’s Performed with Numerous High Profile Celebrities
Ryan has performed with artists such as P. Diddy, French Montana, Ne-Yo, Nas, and Iggy Azalea. Most recently, he finished a contract gig with “Divas” at The Linq Hotel in Las Vegas, in addition to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at Caesars Palace.
His latest performance was as a principal dancer in Michael Jackson’s “ONE” show with Cirque De Soleil at the Mandalay Bay, and he’s been a featured dancer on the Emmy Award-winning reality series, RuPaul’s Drag Race. Can we say, “Pit Crew!”
3. He’s A Fitness Model and Influencer
Doubling down on his fit figure, standing at 5 foot 10 inches, along with striking good looks, Corey also works as a model and influencer. His Stage Door casting profile lists that he does catalogue, commercial/print, high fashion and runway work. All of which is on display via photos posted on his Instagram profile, where has garnered nearly 35K followers.
His print work includes appearing in O magazine, Mr. Turk ads, and Seventeen. On Instagram, Corey does ads for Antidote Essentials, Taimi Dating App, and Arctic Zero Ice-Cream. According to his Backstage resume, his other skills include horseback riding, gymnastics, aerial work, and diving.
4. Corey is a Dance Teacher and Choreographer
When he’s not on stage performing, Corey travels to dance studios across America to teach master classes and choreograph routines. He teaches workshops specializing in jazz and contemporary, and also makes himself available to meet with students looking for advice on how to get their dance career going.
5. Corey Is Incredibly Proud of Russell for Coming Out
It can’t be easy dating someone who felt his career would be at risk if he came out as bisexual, and that frustration can be detrimental for many relationships. However, Corey has stood by Russell’s side, and let him do things on his own terms. That photo Corey and Russell both posted after the article came out, it’s the first time each of them has shared a picture together on social media.
As Russell wrote in his ESPN essay on coming out and looking to rejoin the NFL, “I don’t believe this is a big ask in 2019…. The NFL is a multibillion-dollar entertainment entity with the power to create working conditions that allow LGBTQ people to perform their jobs like everyone else…. Nevertheless, I know now truth is survival, and that we cannot survive in this world without vulnerability and love. Also, the best version of myself, the best partner, the best friend, the best teammate, is one that’s open and honest. Next, it will be a signed player, then a Pro Bowler, then a Super Bowl champion who embraces who he is publicly. I feel as though this could be a step toward that future.”