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My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life

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A riveting account of life as a closeted professional athlete from gay NFL player O’Callaghan, against the backdrop of depression, opioid addiction, and the threat of suicide.

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“Football gave Ryan O’Callaghan a scholarship to Cal and the chance to earn millions in the NFL, but it also afforded him something far more important: a place to hide. As a closeted gay man, his helmet and pads became tools of deception . . . O’Callaghan, who retired in 2011 after four seasons, eventually found the courage to live his truth in retirement. His memoir offers an unsparing look at the nexus of sexuality and football.”
Sports Illustrated

“O’Callaghan came out as gay in 2017 after retiring from the league in 2011. Fearing condemnation while hiding his sexual orientation during a football career that spanned six seasons, O’Callaghan said he had regular suicidal thoughts while growing addicted to painkillers and he had elaborately planned his own death for retirement. In My Life On the Line, co-authored by Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler, O’Callaghan . . . credits then-Kansas City Chiefs executive Scott Pioli and Dr. Susan Wilson for saving his life once he came out to them.”
USA Today

“In a new book due out in September, O’Callaghan discusses his life story, including the treatment he received from former teammates after coming out.”
Boston Globe

“Former Patriots lineman Ryan O’Callaghan spent his entire career hiding his sexuality from his teammates, his friends and his family. He is now sharing that battle in his new book, My Life On The Line.”
CBS Boston (WBZ TV)

“O’Callaghan believes the NFL is moving in the right direction with social issues, albeit slowly . . . O’Callaghan is part of that change. And that change saved his life.”
Boston Globe, feature on Ryan O’Callaghan

“As one of the few openly gay former U.S. players, O’Callaghan’s goal became making it easier for future athletes to be open about their sexuality and gender identity well before they enter professional sports.”

“O’Callaghan is one of only a few openly gay former NFL players . . . In his upcoming memoir, My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life, O’Callaghan candidly discusses his addictions, mental health and struggles with his sexuality.”
Washington Blade

“This one is dark at times, but there’s no better look into what it’s like to live as a closeted gay man in the NFL. Ryan is honest, authentic, and doesn’t hold back sharing his full truth. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.”
Outsports, included in a roundup of 39 LGBT Sports Books recommended by a gay pro baseball player

“The former Patriots and Chiefs offensive tackle lays it all out in his powerful new memoir, My Life on the Line, co-written with Outsports editor Cyd Zeigler.”
The Advocate

“O’Callaghan and co-author Cyd Zeigler . . . strike a balance of harrowing authenticity and zestful optimism in recounting the trauma of his past while paving his path toward recovery. Ultimately, that path provides a way for athletes today to be open about their sexuality and gender identity.”
Outsports, from a feature on Ryan O’Callaghan

“O’Callaghan’s work reveals the physical and emotional pain driving his addictions and suicidal thoughts while struggling as a closeted lineman for the New England Patriots and later the Kansas City Chiefs. His journey to self-acceptance is challenging as it detours through the hyper masculine world of professional football.”
Washington Blade, included in the Fall Arts Preview: Books

My Life On the Line is that rare sports autobiography where the details away from the field are more compelling than the on-field stories . . . [O’Callaghan’s memoir] is an honest glimpse at how hard it still is to come out in so many parts of the country. It’s an engaging, well-crafted, and ultimately heroic journey.”

“[My Life on the Line] details not only the football player’s professional sports career, but also his self-destructive battle with depression and opioid addiction, as well has his path to recovery.”
Bay Area Reporter

“Since 2017, O’Callaghan has quietly become an influencer in the world of sports. That’s when he revealed he is gay, one of the few NFL players to come out. . . . Ryan O’Callaghan can take his place among Patriot heroes.”
The Sun Chronicle, part of an op-ed, “Ryan O’Callaghan is a hero in his own right”

“The calmness and insouciant joy O’Callaghan exudes is emblematic of how far he has come in overcoming his own self hatred. The football player turned gay rights activist and Redding native gets to relish the person he is now instead of blending into the culture of toxic masculinity he assimilated into for most of his life.”
Record Searchlight

“Ryan O’Callaghan made headlines two years ago when the former NFL defensive tackle came out as gay, making him one of the league’s few openly LGBTQ players. Two years later, he’s about to publish a book detailing his years-long struggle with his sexual identity and the physical and psychological toll of pro football.”
Windy City Times

“This book is a must read for a number of reasons, and for a number of people. For young athletes—young people—struggling with their own sexuality and self-identity. For older athletes or professionals who are wondering about revealing their true selves and what it could mean for them professionally or personally. For those dealing with their own drug or alcohol addictions, or dealing with family members or friends with those struggles. Perhaps most importantly, this book is for family members and even parents of people who might be in similar shoes to O’Callaghan’s. To know that what they say and do even during a child’s formative years can have a huge and lasting impact on them as they grow. This book will help people, it will change lives, and it is one that all should read.”
Pats Pulpit (SB Nation)

“Ryan O’Callaghan provides an unadulterated view into depression, being a closeted gay man, and the often harsh business of the NFL.”
Ron Clements Sports

“The book takes a look at O’Callaghan’s life in the NFL while dealing with being closeted and being addicted to drugs. In the introduction, the former offensive lineman talks about abusing painkillers and attempting to use one of the guns he owned on himself due to his secret and from dealing with multiple injuries. And even though he was not looking for anyone to help him, Price was able to reach out and make sure O’Callaghan was getting the help he needed.”
PopCulture Sports

“This a great story. Regardless of where your loyalties lie. It wasn’t all that long ago that Ryan O’Callaghan was hiding his identity, struggling with addiction and losing his will to live. Today he’s healthy, no doubt an inspiration to guys dealing with his same issues, and probably about to become a best selling author. What’s more, he might be the pioneer who proved you can come out to a collection of testosterone-fueled rage monsters and they’ll still accept you. That’s an outcome we can all feel good about.”
Barstool Sports

“An incredible person with an incredible story.”
California Golden Blogs (SB Nation)

“Ryan O’Callaghan is one of only a handful of openly gay former NFL players. Eight years after retiring, he’s opening up about his time in the sport and how it ‘damn near killed’ him.”

“Ryan O’Callaghan, who played five seasons in the NFL for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, and came out of the closet in June 2017, has released a tell-all book about his time in the professional football organization.”

“[O’Callaghan’s] story is one of beautiful vulnerability, and it further shows the importance of knowing you aren’t alone.”
Oprah Daily, recommended by Gayle King

“O’Callaghan discusses those dark days and happier days—thanks to counseling—in his memoir, My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life.”
Q Voice News

My Life On The Line is a courageous and sometimes frightening dive into the mind of a once deeply closeted individual who, through the help of others, found a reason to live.”
A News Café

“[O’Callaghan’s] memoir vividly presents the painful process of kicking drugs and accepting his sexuality. For sports fans who haven’t lived in fear of having their sexuality exposed, O’Callaghan’s powerful narrative should trigger much-needed empathy . . . A fine book on an important subject, and a source of hope for a more accepting world.”
Booklist, Starred review

“O’Callaghan has written a gripping and complex examination of the ways in which bigotry and self-hatred walk hand in hand, and the ways in which the snares we set for ourselves are often more dangerous than the ones which others set for us. It’s a shame that a book like this is still necessary. Thank goodness O’Callaghan wrote it.”
New York Journal of Books

“In this country, LGBTQ individuals face varying degrees of acceptance. Ryan O’Callaghan, a former offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, chronicles his struggle as a closeted gay man in the hypermasculine world of professional football in My Life on the Line, coauthored by Cyd Zeigler.”
Publishers Weekly, included in an LGBT preview/feature

“[O’Callaghan’s] powerful memoir will inspire and even provoke change, and serve as a building block toward acceptance and empathy beyond NFL locker rooms. This no-holds-barred account reveals O’Callaghan’s long journey to recovery and self-acceptance, and provides hope for anyone, not only professional athletes, living life in the shadows.”
Library Journal

“In this country, LGBTQ athletes face varying degrees of acceptance. Ryan O’Callaghan, a former offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, shares his struggle as a closeted gay man in the very masculine world of professional football and his story is about love and acceptance, honesty and truth, integrity and hope. O’Callaghan could have kept his sexuality to himself but instead he offers us all of himself in these pages. By his doing this, he will change lives, save lives, and continue to forge path ahead so that it will be much smoother for those who bravely follow in his footsteps.”
Reviews by Amos Lassen

“This is a powerful and urgent autobiography . . . As [O’Callaghan’s] life spiraled downward thanks to surgeries, depression and addiction, he came very close to fulfilling his vision of suicide. How he pulled himself up again is a remarkable story, and one that everyone should read, regardless of their affinity for football.”
The Silver Unicorn (Bookstore), Paul’s Staff Pick for September 2019!

“This is a story about love and acceptance. It is a story about honesty and truth, integrity and hope. Ryan O’Callaghan could have kept it to himself, could have given the world a polished look. But instead he offers us all of himself in these pages. By doing so, he will change lives, save lives, and make the path ahead that much smoother for those who bravely follow in his footsteps.”
—Congressman Joe Kennedy III

“Ryan O’Callaghan’s story is so poignant, so real, so human. I truly believe the publication of this book could be (and should be) a seminal moment for many athletes and other people in all walks of life. If an NFL player, cloistered in the manliness of his game, can come out of the closet and tell his story with such purpose, I hope that many others will follow his brave lead. This dramatic story of one athlete’s life might be a turning point for football.”
—Peter King, NFL analyst, NBC Sports

“In this moving and powerful memoir, O’Callaghan details the fear and pain of a lifetime spent hiding one’s true self. It’s a suspenseful and cathartic look at a man on the edge, whose salvation could only come from admitting his truth and finding acceptance. This book will change the lives of young men and women struggling to come out, and the lives of those around them, who may not know how they’re contributing to a loved one’s pain and silence. O’Callaghan’s brave and honest story is another big step forward in the continued fight for acceptance of LGBTQ people in the world of sports.”
—Sarah Spain, ESPN Radio host

My Life on the Line is an intense, heart-wrenching look at the reality of life in the NFL, told with gripping honesty and courage. Everyone, not just those interested in football, should read this book.”
—Chris Kluwe, former NFL player, author of Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities


The latest from Akashic’s Edge of Sports imprint, curated by Dave Zirin.

Ryan O’Callaghan’s plan was always to play football and then, when his career was over, kill himself. Growing up in a politically conservative corner of California, the not-so-subtle messages he heard as a young man from his family and from TV and film routinely equated being gay with disease and death. Letting people in on the darkest secret he kept buried inside was not an option: better death with a secret than life as a gay man. As a kid , Ryan never envisioned just how far his football career would take him. He was recruited by the University of California, Berkeley, where he spent five seasons, playing alongside his friend Aaron Rodgers. Then it was on to the NFL for stints with the almost-undefeated New England Patriots and the often-defeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Bubbling under the surface of Ryan’s entire NFL career was a collision course between his secret sexuality and his hidden drug use. When the league caught him smoking pot, he turned to NFL-sanctioned prescription painkillers that quickly sent his life into a tailspin. As injuries mounted and his daily intake of opioids reached a near-lethal level, he wrote his suicide note to his parents and plotted his death.

Yet someone had been watching. A member of the Chiefs organization stepped in, recognizing the signs of drug addiction. Ryan reluctantly sought psychological help, and it was there that he revealed his lifelong secret for the very first time. Nearing the twilight of his career, Ryan faced the ultimate decision: end it all, or find out if his family and football friends could ever accept a gay man in their lives.

Watch interviews with Ryan O’Callaghan at CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CBS This Morning (segment on prominent LGBTQ figures), Scorecard Scribblings with Brent Weber (KNCR 1460 Redding, CA), ESPN’s Outside the Lines, KFBK Morning News (93.1 Sacramento, CA), E! News’s Daily Pop, CBS Boston (WBZ TV), Action News Now, MetroFocus (WNET/New York, NY PBS), CBS Sports Network’s We Need to Talk, and on the NFL’s Facebook page.

Watch an interview with Ryan O’Callaghan on the NFL’s NYC Pride 2019 float at NFL Total Access (NFL Network).

Listen to interviews with Ryan O’Callaghan at That’s What She Said with Sarah Spain, Hang Up and Listen, Windy City Times, StrandCast, The Gridiron and Beyond with Bob Socci, Outlook (BBC World), The Nation’s Edge of Sports podcast, The Peter King Podcast, Glenn Clark Radio, Morning Bull (WGRF-FM Buffalo, NY), The Tom Barnard Show, The DA Show (CBS Sports Radio), and Level Playing Field.

Listen to a feature (Part 1 & Part 2) on Ryan O’Callaghan at ESPN Outside the Lines. 

Read features/interviews with Ryan O’Callaghan at The Big Lead, Reuters, Ron Clements Sports, Outsports, The Advocate, and the Washington Blade.

Read features on Ryan O’Callaghan at Sky News, Record Searchlight (Redding, CA), The Orion (California State University, Chico student newspaper), Boston Globe, and Peter King’s Football Morning in America (NBC Sports).

Read excerpts from My Life on the Line at Outsports and The Advocate.

Read an event preview for My Life on the Line at the Boston Globe.

Read interviews with Ryan O’Callaghan at California Golden Blogs (SB Nation), The GM’s Perspective, and Lavender After Dark.

Read an interview with Ryan O’Callaghan as part of a feature story on LGBT athletes in the NFL at NFL.com.

Read an op-ed piece about Ryan O’Callaghan at The Sun Chronicle.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Published: 9/3/19
  • IBSN: 9781617757594
  • e-IBSN: 9781617757709
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617757587


RYAN O’CALLAGHAN played right tackle in the NFL for six seasons, with the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Before he was drafted by the Patriots in 2006, he played for the University of California Golden Bears, where he helped the team win two bowl games and was named the 2005 Morris Trophy winner as the Pac-10’s best offensive lineman. O’Callaghan is the creator of a foundation designed to provide scholarships for out LGBTQ athletes. He currently lives in his hometown of Redding, California. All of O’Callaghan’s proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit The Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation (www.ROFDN.org). My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life is his debut memoir.

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CYD ZEIGLER is the cofounder and coeditor of Outsports.com, the world’s most renowned publication dealing with LGBTQ issues in sports. One of the world’s leading experts on the intersection of sexuality and sports, Zeigler has been tapped to discuss the issue by CNN, ESPN, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and many others. He has worked with countless athletes to tell their coming-out stories, including professional athletes Michael Sam, John Amaechi, and Ryan O’Callaghan. He is also the author of Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports. A graduate of Stanford University, Zeigler now lives in Los Angeles with his husband and two cats. My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life is his latest work.

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