Former teammate calls Jason Collins 'a true man'

Mendez and Collins

Credit: WFAA

Ryan Mendez, left, was a teammate of Jason Collins when they played basketball for the Stanford Cardinal.



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Posted on April 30, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 9:00 PM

DALLAS — Ryan Mendez knows Jason Collins well. They were team captains at Stanford.

In 2001, they were ranked No. 1 for most of the year, so when Collins shattered one of the final barriers in professional sports on Monday by announcing he was gay, Mendez was surprised.

"'Surprised,' I guess, is a very good word," Mendez said Tuesday at his home in Dallas. "It was something that people make a really big deal out of, but honestly — myself and all my teammates — we had no idea."

Mendez saw Collins at a wedding last weekend, and said there was no hint at what was about to happen.

Mendez was teasing his college pal about having only 3,500 followers on his Twitter account. Collins hinted that number was about to change — but didn't say why.

His followers by Tuesday evening had swelled to nearly 100,000.

"I never set out to be the first, and it's sort of... you're obviously waiting around for someone else," Collins told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

President Barack Obama addressed the news as well. "I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly," he told reporters.

Mendez doesn't think the announcement will affect Collins' NBA career.

"Oh absolutely, I think he'll play again. I don't think it should impact his career at all," Mendez said. "If he's good enough to get on an NBA team — which I think he clearly is — there are a lot of guys this day and age that don't understand the game that might be more athletic. So I think absolutely, he'll stay in the NBA and sign on with another team."

Collins is an 11-year veteran of the league. He's a free agent this summer, and wants to keep playing.

Mendez said he applauds Collins for what he was finally able to do.

"It takes a true man to do what he did, and at the end of the day, it’s about who you are," Mendez said. "He's literally an incredible person."