HBCU football player Byron Perkins plans to enter the NFL Draft in 2024. Hampton University‘s defensive back, who has been openly gay for the past five years, said that he couldn’t let this opportunity pass him by.

He is now focused on being selected in the April 2024 NFL Rookie Draft in Detroit and securing a spot in the league’s training camp for the upcoming summer.

“The next six months of my life after the holidays are going to be nothing but rigorous training schedules,” Perkins told Outsports. “Training upon training to make sure I can compete, and have durability, with some of the best athletes in the world. Making sure I’m in the best physical shape of my life.”

To reach his top physical fitness level, Perkins will work with a defensive backs coach, a trainer, and a strength coach. Mentors will also help him with other aspects of his recruitment. 

“It is such a privilege to compete,” he said. “Whatever team I have the privilege to pick up their helmet, it’s going to be surreal. To just be able to touch an NFL practice field, that is a privilege, a privilege that doesn’t come to many.”

Perkins places a great deal of value on his Christian faith. It was a moment at church that led him to commit to a career in professional football.

“Especially now more than ever. I was at a fork in a road in regards to what I wanted to do. I had one of these epiphanies at church when I went to one of the nurturing sessions, and it was truly beautiful. I needed it,” he said. “I’m also prioritizing my mental health, in regards to church, in regards to therapy, to make sure my mental health is in good shape.”

Many are curious about how Perkins’ homosexuality will impact his candidacy. Two openly gay men have been selected for the NFL Draft in the past: Michael Sam in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft and Scott Frantz in the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I’ve decided that I’m going to make a change and stop running away from myself,” the D-1 footballer shared in a now-expired Instagram Story, according to The Washington Post. “I’m gay. Let it be known that this is not a ‘decision’ or a ‘choice.’ Yes, this is who I am, this is who I’ve been, and this is who I’m going to be,” Perkins continued. “Simply put, I am who I am.”