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Esera Tuaolo Biography

Esera Tuaolo played in the NFL for 9 consecutive seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons (1998 NFC Championship winning team) and the Carolina Panthers. He was the first Rookie in Packer history to start all 16 games and was a member of the 1991 all-rookie team. In his career, he recorded 200 tackles, 12 sacks, and 1 interception. In college, he was the Morris Trophy winner in 1989, given to the best defensive player in the Pac-10. He was a member of the all-Pac-10 team in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Born on Oahu Island in Hawaii, Tuaolo grew up on a small banana farm as the youngest of eight children. In order to get better exposure as a football player, he moved to California when he was in high school. College recruiters immediately noticed him, and he went to play for Oregon State University after graduating. In 1990, the Green Bay Packers drafted Tuaolo with the 35th pick—the highest an OSU defensive player had ever been taken. In what is traditionally a humiliating initiation ritual at Green Bay’s training camp, all rookies are required to sing a song to their teammates before being allowed to take a place at the table for dinner. Tuaolo’s rousing version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” led him to be the first player ever to perform the national anthem at a nationally televised game.

In 2002, Tuaolo publicly came out as gay. He had always felt forced to hide his sexuality as a gay man in the hyper-masculine culture of professional football. The secret crippled him, leading him to drink excessively and even contemplate suicide. It also hindered his football performance; he felt that if he were too good a player he would be exposed as a homosexual. He led a double life that deeply depressed him, but which he now looks back on with a new perspective. During this difficult time, he persevered by following his mother’s example and maintaining a strong sense of faith.

After retiring from professional football Tuaolo became fed up with pretending to “be straight.” He publicly announced his sexuality on HBO Real Sports, an experience he describes as “taking off a costume I’ve been wearing all my life.” One of only three former NFL players to ever “come out,” he has received huge amounts of support from old teammates, the media, friends, and family. Since coming out in 2002, Tuaolo has been speaking to schools and corporations about the pervasiveness of homophobia in sports and business, helping organizational leaders understand how to create a safe environment for members and employees.

Tuaolo’s autobiographical account, "Alone in the Trenches: My Life As a Gay Man in the NFL," with John Rosengren, explores the compelling tale of a dirt-poor Samoan immigrant who won a football scholarship to Oregon State, played in the Super Bowl and then made a life-changing decision that ultimately saved his life, his family, and his Christianity. Tuaolo’s story also exposes the behind-the-scenes world of professional football from what happens on the field to locker room antics. He has also shared his experiences on popular platforms like "Weekend Edition Sunday" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Tuaolo is now a successful recording artist, who has performed the National Anthem at professional sporting events and was a finalist on season 13 of The Voice, being part of Team Blake. He also continues to give back through his involvement in various charitable endeavors and is an Executive Chef at Seven Ultra Lounge, a Sushi and Steak House restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Esera Tuaolo for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Esera Tuaolo speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.

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