The revelation came in a little-noticed tweet, one that's been retweeted just 14 times.
On the morning of May 2, Northwood senior offensive lineman Jacob Van Ittersum came out as bisexual. On Tuesday morning, he unveiled an essay about his decision to come out, and the reaction since, for the website Outsports.com.
"As a kid, you get in your head what a football player is supposed to be like," Van Ittersum wrote. "Anything that deviates from the perceived norm wouldn’t seem to be accepted. I tried so hard while I was young to stay within what was considered normal. It wasn’t until late into college that I realized that there is no such thing as the norm. Everyone has their own differences.
"For me, my biggest difference was being bisexual."
Van Ittersum, 20, a former standout at Warren De La Salle High, wrote that the reaction has been very positive since he went public, particularly from starting quarterback Joey Garbarino, his longtime friend who also attended De La Salle.
"My quarterback, Joey Garbarino, whom I have played with since the fourth grade, stepped up," Van Ittersum wrote. "He has been with me from the start of my career and every step along the way. We’ve even won a state championship together. I’ve always been protecting him on the line of scrimmage and I can now see he has my back off the field. He was asked by someone if they thought it would be weird to be in the showers with me now that I came out. He quickly dismissed the question and asked why it would be weird. He said we’re like brothers and should treat each other that way. His words and support really made me feel better."
Van Ittersum also wrote that his coach, Leonard Haynes, was surprised when he saw the tweet and the next time they saw each other, Haynes asked if it was true. Van Ittersum confirmed that it was.
"He told me he was happy for me and that if I had any problems that I could come to him and we would work it out," Van Ittersum wrote. "I’m lucky to be a part of such a supporting team."
Van Ittersum becomes one of a small number of college athletes to come out while still playing, and an even smaller number from Michigan. Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell came out in 2013. Oakland swimmer Ayrton Kasemets came out his freshman season, and won the athletic department's courage award in 2016.
Van Ittersum also was a standout wrestler at De La Salle. At Northwood, he has earned All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference recognition, as well as GLIAC All-Academic Excellence honors.