"It's still not perceived to be a safe space for an athlete to come out," said Hudson Taylor, a three-time All-American wrestler at Maryland and friend of Patterson's who is now an assistant coach at Columbia. "You're literally grappling with another person, so your sexual orientation could make some people uncomfortable. Maryland was able to overcome those obstacles because of the culture of the team and because of [Coach Kerry] McCoy."

Taylor, Maryland's all-time winningest wrestler, has also been featured by Outsports.com, but for different reasons. During some Maryland wrestling practices, he would wear a blue-and-yellow "equality" sticker on his red headgear representing the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. He didn't display the sticker in competition because Maryland's program deemed it inappropriate. "I was certainly ready to," said Taylor, who graduated in 2010. "I got in a lot of debates about it."

"Straight allies are few and far between," Outsports wrote admiringly of Taylor.

McCoy, a former Olympian and Penn State wrestler who has been Maryland's coach for three seasons, said Patterson's public disclosure was not a significant event.

"For us specifically as a staff, it didn't change anything," McCoy said. "It wasn't something where he stood up and gave a speech to the team. It's just like we wouldn't sit down with our guys and say, 'Stand up and explain your relationship status.'"

"He's just a great guy to be around," said Spencer Myers, Maryland's first true freshman All-American, who has been coached by Patterson. "[Patterson's sexual orientation] doesn't change who he is."

Asked about Patterson's wrestling future, McCoy replied: "He's got a ton of potential. He's anywhere from 5 to 15 right now [in the nation]. He can beat the top guys. He can lose to a top guy."

Patterson never quite felt comfortable playing football at Maryland, where he said he was discouraged by the program from taking a course in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender studies.

Friedgen declined requests for comment. Randy Edsall, who replaced Friedgen as Maryland football coach in January, was an assistant with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars at the time defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo was on the team. Tuaolo came out after his career was over in 2002, and Edsall said he didn't know Tuaolo was gay.

"Everybody is entitled to their own ways of doing things, as long it doesn't affect your team," Edsall said. "A lot of people are probably going to keep it quiet. I don't think when you're at the [NFL scouting] combine, that one of the questions is, 'Are you gay?' "

Patterson said the arc of his life changed after he decided to no longer be a victim of circumstances. He began telling California University teammates he was gay in 2006.

Today, he posts YouTube videos in which he talks casually about his experiences.

In one video, he describes the stomach-churning dread of revealing his sexual orientation to fellow athletes. His eyes widen as he tells the story, and his body seems to recoil in panic.

"Let me just say it was scary," Patterson says to the camera. "No other word."

He said he has heard from a number of athletes, including one at California University, struggling with issues related to sexual identity.

"They just need to know it's OK to be whatever they want to be," Patterson said.