Eric Lueshen kicking barriers down for LGBTQ community

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Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 7:31 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - About an hour south of Yankton is the small farm village of Pierce, Nebraska. It is the home of former Nebraska Cornhusker Eric Lueshen and where he developed his skills as a student-athlete. He excelled at just about everything and that attracted staff from the University of Nebraska.

“When I went and visited the Huskers multiple times, I couldn’t get over the fact they didn’t want me for just being a great athlete, they wanted me for also my nerd identity because I was at the top of my class,” Lueshen said.

Lueshen knew well before he stepped on the Lincoln campus he was gay, but he was not going to let his identity keep him from achieving his goals. It was hard for people to understand at first. He says he could begin to feel the thoughts of the team and university administration but said he would be honest if anyone ever asked how he identified.

“I sat down one day at lunch and two friends of mine on the team just asked me flat out are you gay? I kind of smiled at them, laughed, and said yeah is that a problem?”

It was no big deal to the teammates as they went about their business but quickly allowed the detail to circulate throughout the team, campus, and country. Lueshen says his time at Nebraska was tough, but it also provided the foundation for change.

“There was also this huge transformation I was seeing from some of the most homophobic people I’ve ever met to [become] my biggest supporters, friends, and allies. That’s when I realized it didn’t matter if they ever gave me the shot on the field or not. I was doing something much bigger just by being authentic self.”

Lueshen will be one of many visitors for one of the fastest-growing pride celebrations in the world. When he visits Sioux Falls for the Pride Parade and Festival, he says it is a time to celebrate where people have come from, but also highlights the work that needs to be done. By sharing his story, he hopes to continue changing the environment for athletes and everyone within the LGBTQ community. By co-founding LGBT SportsSafe with a fellow gay former college athlete, the two speak with athletic department staff across the country. He also wants to continue helping people as a biomedical engineer.

“I’ve always known from a young age that my purpose on this planet is to give back, to help, and to heal.”

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