To these gay Atlanta alumni, fall means college football season, and they’re ready to fly their colors.
By Mike Fleming

The arrival of crisper air and leaves starting to turn means different things to different gay men in the ATL. To some, it means Saturdays filled with tight pants and rear slapping amidst the roar of a crowd – with nary a gay bar in sight.

We rounded up three local gay football fans who hung onto their team loyalty as they built their post-graduate lives in Atlanta – whether college was in Atlanta, just north of here, or way north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Come celebrate the season of tailgates and tight ends with these great guys and their undying school spirit.

AndyAndy McNeil
Georgia Institute of Technology, aka Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets

How would you characterize Tech fans?
We all have: a) studied hard, b) worked hard, c) partied hard, or d) all the above. Clearly, d) is the Yellow Jacket way!

What lessons from GT do you still carry with you today?
My experience taught me to try new things to challenge me. Academics were intense, but I also experienced a lot of new things that shaped who I am today: I played rugby, was in Reck Club, participated in student government, as well as many other activities. In order to enjoy ­ and be relativity successful at ­ this crazy roller coaster we call life, GT challenged me to try new things.

In what ways do you express your school spirit?
I try to make it to as many games and GT events as I can. Being on campus at least two days a week coaching/teaching the mock trial program certainly helps facilitate my school spirit. When I’m not on campus or in Atlanta, I’ll track down the “go-to” GT place to watch the game in whatever city I’m in.

What’s your favorite fall football memory or team moment?
I joined the Ramblin’ Reck Club my sophomore year. Founded in 1930, it’s an organization of students committed to the education and promotion of Tech spirit, history and tradition, including maintaining the world famous Ramblin’ Reck, a 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe.

I had the privilege of being elected Driver of the Ramblin’ Reck my senior year. It leads the entire football team onto historic Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium before every home football game. Driving the Reck through a banner, loaded with cheerleaders to a stadium full of cheering fans was such a surreal experience every time I did it that I will always remember.

Why is GT Football Historic?
Commence my GT nerdery: John Heisman coached GT from 1904-1919. We hold the most lopsided victory in college football history (defeated Cumberland College 222-0 in 1916). We won the National Championship in 1917, 1928, 1952 and 1990. GT will always be near and dear to me, for which I am very thankful. I look forward to this season and THwG!

ChadChad Buckles
University of Tennessee Volunteers

What’s your favorite thing about fall football?
The fans dressed in Orange and White singing along to “Rocky Top” played by The Pride of the Southland Marching Band, the band forming the Power “T,” and the Vols running through the “T” as they enter the stadium.

What does your alma mater mean to you?
Family time growing up and my dad teaching me to respect the other team you are playing. In the SEC, it’s a mutual respect each team has for each other. Hearing our band playing the opponents fight song during the Pre-Game ritual always reminds me to respect their team.

What lessons did you learn in Knoxville that you still carry today?
I was fortunate to watch Pat Head Summit coach the Lady Vols. Little did I know that we were watching a soon-to-be legend. … She was tough on her players, but in the end she knew how to win.

In what ways do you express your school spirit?
I always wear orange on Friday and Saturdays. If I am attending a game and tailgating, I play “Rocky Top” over and over. For all the fans of other SEC schools, after they hear that song twice, they have usually heard it enough.

What’s your favorite UT football moment?
My first game I remember falling in love with UT, was in 1990 against Notre Dame. Tennessee lost that game 34-29. I remember the sadness and hurt as a young teenager. That day, I turned into a Vol For Life. The next year, we beat the Fighting Irish in South Bend. That game is known as the Miracle at South Bend.

What is it about college football you love so much?
For me, this is the best time of the year. My close friends represent so many different schools – South Carolina, Florida State, UNC, Alabama and Mississippi State. I enjoy the time we get to spend together talking about who is playing well and who is going to win. This is one reason I love living in Atlanta.

AlexAlex Brown
University of Michigan Wolverines

What’s your favorite memory about fall football?
I think of the way Ann Arbor would fill up on the morning of every game day and the walk my friends and I took from our house through campus, stopping with friends and at parties along the way to the stadium.

What does your alma mater mean to you?
I wanted to attend the University of Michigan my whole life. It’s the only school I applied to, which in retrospect was not the smartest idea. I still think of my years there as some of the best of my life. I did a lot of growing up during my years at U of M and met some fantastic people that I’m still good friends with today.

What lessons from school do you still carry with you?
I remember about half of my time there being afraid to be out… In my 3rdyear, I did come out in my fraternity and found that no one really cared. It was the first time in my life I had the ability to live authentically and without the fear I think most closeted people experience. I got to experience the good in people, where up until that point I had gotten used to assuming the worst.

What’s your favorite fall football memory?
The first time I went to a game and the sheer size of the crowd. The stadium itself, the Big House, is the largest stadium in the United States and could hold the population of the small town where I grew up about 30 times. I had never seen that many people all in one place at the same time, and I remember thinking how amazing it was.

Photos by Russ Youngblood