Original Air Date: April 9, 2012
When he’s not training with his mat partner, Akil S. Patterson is advising up-and-coming wrestlers or competing for the New York Athletic Club’s wrestling team, with his eye on representing the U.S. at the Olympics. His life is all wrestling, all the time. But that’s not always been the case. After making the All-American football team in high school, Patterson went on to play ball in college. But while he excelled in the sport, school itself was largely a dark period in which he avoided dealing with his sexual orientation. A trip to Europe changed all that. After seeing gay men live their lives openly and happily, Patterson came out of the closet to his friends and family and finished his education. Then, after a quick stint in Montana playing semipro football, Patterson was ready for another change.
He returned to the wrestling mat — and shed 110 pounds. “I look at those people on The Biggest Loser, and I just think they’re a bunch of crybabies,” he jokes. “I did it through wrestling. It’s goal-oriented, and you’re constantly being challenged.” In one of his first matches, Patterson faced a Pan American Games champion — and won. Now, when he’s not training, he counsels teenagers and young adults in Washington, D.C. “I try to keep them involved in activities,” he says. “I’m filling their world in terms of athletics. Sports helped me, so it can help them too.” (The Advocate Magazine “40 Under 40”)
Now Patterson is ready to take on a new challenge. The multi-award winning Greco-Roman Wrestler is coming off the mat to take on bullying and its affect on athletes on and off the playing field. Patterson not only plans to fight for the rights of LGBT athletes but the growing community of LGBT people seeking equality across the board. Through the formation of The Patterson Project, Patterson hopes to bring forth change. The goal of the Patterson Project is to become a voice and advocate for LGBT athletes across the globe. The project will aide and educate students, staff, coaches, and their family members on how to support athletes who may be LGBT or be working with LGBT community members.