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Collin Martin: The Trailblazer

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City Pages' People Issue celebrates people making Minnesota a better place. 

Collin Martin needs a goal. He knows this. His mom won’t shut up about it.

She tells him to look for his own shot more often, but the Virginia native is a little too unselfish to care only for his own stats. Through 38 games with Minnesota United, Martin, a midfielder, has assisted on three goals. He’s only shot 15 times. None beat the goalkeeper.

Teammates love guys like that, humble box-to-box hustlers who subordinate themselves to the greater good. Yes, he does want his first goal. But not nearly as much as his mom does.

“As a midfielder, that’s not necessarily my job, but I do want to be able to add some goals to the game,” Martin says. “But my mom’s been giving me more crap than anybody.”

At the moment, Martin, 24, is content to be a key player in Minnesota’s future – and a trailblazer as the only out gay athlete in any of America’s major male sports. Others have come out recently, but almost all waited until they retired. (Women’s sports are far more accepting.)

When Martin announced he dates men last season, a funny thing happened. Nothing. No bullying, no name-calling, no teammates distancing themselves. He’s beloved, if anything. You don’t say a bad word about a guy who’s hustled through 300 hours of soccer and only shot 15 times.

Growing up, Martin heard homophobic curses on the field all the time. It was go-to trash talk to accuse an opponent of being gay -- and in the harshest terms possible. He heard it from opposing players, even teammates, and had to write it off as more of an intimidation tactic than a statement of prejudice.

Once in a while he wondered if someone knew he was gay, and was calling him out in public for his sexuality. But he always assumed the best of them, and kept his secret to himself.
“I was never comfortable enough to stand up for myself or others,” says Martin, who says such language is “still pervasive” throughout sports.

He’s comfortable enough these days to go on James Corden’s nationally televised show and “swipe right” on a live dating game. He picked the nice-looking young man with a clean-shaven face, and the two immediately struck up an intelligent conversation.

Still, Martin’s focus is on soccer. The United just wrapped up training camp; the season starts in March in a gorgeous new St. Paul stadium.

He’s been in one serious relationship since moving to Minneapolis, but if he wanted to explore the scene, he knows he’s something of a marked man, goal or no goal.

“I’ve got people reaching out all the time,” Martin says, chuckling. “I guess everybody wants to date a professional athlete.”

They might have to wait. For now he’s dedicated to winning games for an obsessive fanbase. He’s excited about it all. “I haven’t had a breakout year yet, and I’m working to secure that next contract. And obviously, I want to be part of a winning team.”

Click here to read other profiles from this year's City Pages People Issue.