Colton Underwood On Masculinity, Fatherhood, And The NFL : The Limits with Jay Williams As a former NFL player and star of the Bachelor, Colton Underwood has embodied the highest ideals of masculinity. He worked hard to fit the mold of what everyone expected him to be. Until it almost killed him. When he finally accepted his sexuality and came out in 2021, the impact felt seismic.

This week, Colton talks about navigating his football career as a closeted gay man—what it was like to experience locker rooms, and the homophobia that came with them. And why the sports culture makes it so difficult for closeted men to live their lives openly.

For sponsor-free episodes, weekly bonus content, and more, subscribe to The Limits Plus at plus.npr.org/thelimits. On this week's Plus episode, Colton shares his thoughts on raising kids as a gay man.

Follow Jay on Instagram and Twitter. Email us at thelimits@npr.org.

Colton Underwood On Defining Masculinity On His Own Terms

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JAY WILLIAMS, HOST:

Colton, give me an example of some of the jokes they would say while you were present in those locker rooms.

COLTON UNDERWOOD: I'll start by saying this - and maybe you agree or disagree with me - but the locker room, in my eyes, was one of the most homophobic and homoerotic places that I've ever been.

WILLIAMS: Welcome to THE LIMITS. I'm Jay Williams. And here's the thing. It doesn't matter if you agree or you disagree with Colton Underwood. What truly matters is that he's sharing his perspective on it all. If you Google the name Colton Underwood right now - do it - you're going to get millions of search results about his time on "The Bachelor" and all the mistakes he made there. You're going to read about how after he became a reality superstar, he very publicly came to terms with his sexuality. But what's buried beneath all of it is that he's one of the only handful of professional football players to ever come out. And that's what Colton and I are talking about today. What is it about the professional sports world that makes it so difficult - so difficult - for some of us to live authentically? And once we find that authenticity, how do we even begin to change the culture so that others can do the same? Here's my conversation with Colton Underwood.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WILLIAMS: All right, man. So I saw you on your IG page, and I have to ask you about this because currently, you see my beautiful setup here. I'm in a hotel room at theWit in Chicago - played for the Bulls. And I saw you with a Bulls tee on. Can I take this as you're a Bulls fan, and am I lucky enough to have you be part of the Bulls community, please?

UNDERWOOD: Well, you know that I'm from the Peoria area in Illinois. So...

WILLIAMS: OK.

UNDERWOOD: ...You know, I did grow up rooting for the Bulls.

WILLIAMS: OK. All right. I - this is - this sets our relationship off on a good start.

UNDERWOOD: I know. So I'm a little - but I also have a Pacer loyalty, too. So it's the Pacers and the Bulls for me.

WILLIAMS: OK, now I'm really confused. How the Pacer loyalty?

UNDERWOOD: Because I was born in Indianapolis. So - and I grew up, you know, with a Boomer little ball that transforms into the mascot. It was a whole thing, right?

WILLIAMS: Ha.

UNDERWOOD: Just, like, a nostalgic feeling that I'll never, like - you know, I can never take a position against the Pacers, but I feel like I have to have loyalty to the Bulls, too.

WILLIAMS: OK. I'm cool with that. You know why? Because in my household, my wife was born in Carmel, Ind. All of her family - die-hard Pacers fans.

UNDERWOOD: Yup.

WILLIAMS: So, you know what? It's acceptable. If it's acceptable in my family, it's acceptable here on the interview. So...

UNDERWOOD: Love it.

WILLIAMS: ...I appreciate you being transparent with that. I love it. OK, so let's switch to the NFL for a second. I want you to take me back to being a kid.

UNDERWOOD: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: Can you tell me about the time you first started dreaming about being a professional football player?

UNDERWOOD: You know, I think the earliest memory I have - it was in either the first or the second grade. And I remember we had, like, career day or something coming up. And my teacher said, hey, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I wrote on - I wrote down - I said, I want to be - play in the NFL. And she sent me back to my desk and told me to pick a more realistic career - I kid you not, at that age. So I...

WILLIAMS: Wow.

UNDERWOOD: ...Wrote down stay-at-home dad. So it was either one or - it was, like, the polar opposites of, like...

WILLIAMS: (Laughter).

UNDERWOOD: ...The top level and then also, like, stay-at-home dad. So weirdly enough, I think I'm probably going to be able to say that I did both in my life, so that's exciting.

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. So your teacher, at that young of a age, told you, come back with something more realistic? Like, I thought teachers were supposed to incentivize dreaming and actually trying to shoot to accomplish your goal, not knock it down.

UNDERWOOD: Yeah. You know, it was something along those lines. And, you know, that's - it's hard because, you know, maybe she was having an off day. But also teachers don't really realize, like, the impact they can have on kids these days. You know, even if they're having a bad day, it could stick with the kid forever. And I think - I let it motivate me more than anything, you know, once I got of the age of being, like, OK, I could really do this.

WILLIAMS: I know from your Netflix series, "Coming Out Colton," that you - from a very young age, you felt different. My wife and I have conversations about this a multitude of times because of young people that we know. And I'm curious to ask you, did you think that feeling was incompatible with your dreams of being an NFL player? Like, did you ever have a clash of those thoughts?

UNDERWOOD: No. You know, I didn't because I never thought that I was actually going to be able to come out or live my true, authentic self. And I thought that hiding in my masculinity and hiding in the sport of football was the only choice for me. I didn't think, you know, survival-wise - I don't think I - I didn't think I was going to be able to survive being an out, gay man. So I really just dove headfirst into the sport of football, and I never really tried to look back. I actually never looked in the direction of even being gay. I never educated myself. I never even wanted to really dabble in it other than, you know, when I was of age to be attracted - like, know that I was actually attracted to males and have that physical need or want or lust. I never really tried to, like, research or, like, look in that direction.

WILLIAMS: Is it safe to say, Colton, that if you weren't an athlete that you would have came out sooner?

UNDERWOOD: Oh, yes. I mean, there's definitely been moments in my life where I wish I would have joined theater at a younger age instead of played sports. But, you know, I do question a lot if I would have had a better career if I would have been out. Could I have focused more on, you know, my happiness and enjoyed the sport and enjoyed learning and really sunk into it more if I was my true, authentic self at a younger age?

WILLIAMS: I got a photo of you here. It's of you in your high school football uniform - yes, a throwback photo, Colton. This is great. You were your high school football star athlete, winning 11 games in a row that year and winning the conference for the first time in 15 years. Congratulations. What were this Colton's biggest dreams back then?

UNDERWOOD: Oh, man. The image just came up.

WILLIAMS: What a picture, by the way. I love it because you got the helmet. You got the weight rack. You got the very I-am-a-dominant-football-player look in your eyes.

UNDERWOOD: Oh, yeah. But inside, you know, he was hurting in many different ways. Yeah. I mean, I look at those photos, and there's been a few - even in college, and you could just see, like, that look of confusion and being scared. But on the outside, you know, I was intimidating to a lot of people, especially when I was on the field. So, yeah, it's just - you know, those types of photos, honestly, just make me sad because I wish that, you know, while - what I was expressing to the external world was, I am OK. I am, you know, great and powerful and mighty. But in reality, inside, I was feeling weak. I was feeling, you know, less than a lot of other people. And I was hurting.

WILLIAMS: It's crazy what the exterior portrays - right? - because you would then go on to have a successful career in college playing football. You would go to the NFL. You would become the face of one of the biggest reality television shows ever to exist. So I'm curious, with all that success that you had, what advice would you give that 18-year-old self?

UNDERWOOD: Man, I just think, you know, I've made a lot of mistakes, and I truly am a believer in, like, you have to go through it to come out better on the other side. So there's not a lot that I would change. Even, you know, some things that are going to affect me for the rest of my life and the mistakes that I've made - I've all made for a reason. And it's always - that's what life is about - right? - learning and moving through it. But the advice I would give him is just to do what makes you happy. I mean, no matter what you do in life, people are going to try to tear you down. People are going to have opinions. And until you just live authentically and live, you know, your happiest, best version of yourself, you're not going to be successful.

WILLIAMS: Here's a story for you. In 2014, Colton was up for the NFL draft, a dream come true. And so was another man. His name was Michael Sam. Just weeks before one of the biggest days in Michael's life, he came out. And on the same day that Colton was drafted, Michael Sam became the very first openly gay man to be recruited to an NFL team. Just let that sink in for a minute - the first. Imagine being Colton in that moment and how that must have felt. We're going to take a quick break, and when we get back, Colton is actually going to take us there - yeah, inside his mind when this actually went down. This is THE LIMITS from NPR. I'm Jay Williams.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WILLIAMS: I want to go to social media for a second. And I want to read you something. I would love to have you react to it, Colton. So there's only been one NFL player ever who has come out while being on a team. That's Carl Nassib, who came out last July. He played for the Las Vegas Raiders until he was released from them last month. What's upsetting is some of the comments on the NFL's Instagram posts about him being released. One implied he was released because he was, quote, "probably hitting on the whole team," end-quote. Another user joked that the Raiders were, quote, "finally straightening out their roster," end quote. When you see people respond on social media to an incredible story like Carl's, what does that say about the culture around the NFL?

UNDERWOOD: It shows that we haven't made the progress that a lot of people claim that we've made. I remember I shared - the NFL did a Pride post. And I shared it on my story. And everybody's like, so what? Stop making a big deal of this. And it's like, well, we don't view it - like, we're already there. Like, everybody is so quick to say, we're there. We have equality. It's all good. But then you turn to the comments and we're not there, because the NFL has the responsibility not only to continue to educate, but also to continue to have the right messaging and have the right actions to match what they're posting and match what they're saying. And fan bases across the country are not on board yet. And it's lazy for a lot of people to make that conclusion of, oh, he was hitting - it's just - it's inappropriate and it's lazy at the same time. But overall, it just goes to show that we have not made the advances that people want to say that we've made so that we can just move on and move passes. Carl is a trailblazer in his own right, but he's just the beginning of this.

WILLIAMS: How do you think locker rooms or people would have reacted? And I know that, you know, Carl - if you did come out as a player while you were playing? What do you think that locker room would have been like? I'm curious.

UNDERWOOD: You know, I wish I would have because I was the same year as Michael Sam. So it would have - I think it would have been really - it should have been easier for me - right? - because Michael Sam did it first. And then it would have been nice for me to have support for - make him not feel alone in the league. But I don't know what feeling would have been like. And all I know is I was scared. I was really scared. And I didn't think it was going to be possible. And I didn't want to be a distraction to the team. And that was truly what was sort of taking up space in my mind.

WILLIAMS: You know, it's - so when I would play, I was really into business, right? And I remember one of our scouts with the Bulls - and this even happened at Duke as I was trying to learn other things. It was like, well, all these other things are distractions, right? And you don't want to distract the team from the mission, which the end mission is always, win a championship, right? And anything that distracts away from winning a championship, that's negative. That's bad. And me hearing you say you don't want to distract the team after Michael Sam comes out, was that the main reason that hindered you from saying, Michael's doing it, why can't I do it?

UNDERWOOD: Well, that and I got to watch Michael's story unfold and be part of a locker room that didn't have Michael standing there. So I got to hear and see the jokes and see the reaction firsthand. So I think that played more of a factor for me into, like, you know, while all these players were going on, you know, social media and doing press interviews, saying, we support and we stand by him, as soon as that camera was off, all of a sudden you heard, oh, he's going to be cut. This - like, he's a distraction. There's too many topics going on right now with - too many headlines going on right now with him outside of just the sport. Like, it's not going to last. And then, I mean, obviously, there was inappropriate jokes as well. So I got to experience that firsthand. And I think that's what hindered me more than anything.

WILLIAMS: You know, I get frustrated by it because for me, being around all different races, all people who follow different creeds, you know, when you are in that locker room as a Chicago Bull or as a player at Duke, like, regardless of whether you were 6'10 and Caucasian, regardless of whether you were Mexican, you were my brother. Like, I would fight for you. And it helped me expand my vision and how I saw the world - right? - because people were people. But when it came to sexuality, why was that the one thing that seems like it lacks in locker rooms? Like, everything else is diverse. And, you know, we like more creativity. And the more different you are, the more you help our environment. But yet, when it comes to sexuality, being different, it feels like, in sports, it's like, whoa. Like, I don't understand that.

UNDERWOOD: I think it's insecurities, I really do. And I think once people realize it's insecurities and it's also - it's threatening, weirdly, to a lot of these men and women, who think that they know who they are. And they feel like they're so grounded, and I'm this person. And then all of a sudden, once they hear, oh, that person is gay, it's almost like a threat or, like, oh, like, that's what it means? Or I didn't know gay could look like that. And, look; this is just me still working through all of this. I'm no expert by any means. But it has...

WILLIAMS: Of course.

UNDERWOOD: I've been doing a lot of self-reflection this last year of why the sports culture and community is so far behind. And, you know, part of it, I think, too, in at least some of the jokes that were made is I think there's a lot of people just scared, like, to have gay men or women in a locker room because they feel like, oh, are they going to hit on me? It's like, I'm a professional at the end of the day. Like, I'm not - like, there's never had - there's never been that type of thought process that's ever gone through. Just, like, you know, you can control yourselves. We're not animals, like, you know? Some - I mean, some of us might be. But in that situation, that's sort of what I left with. Is it threatening? Or is it a level of insecurity for the other people in the locker room?

WILLIAMS: Colton, give me an example of some of the jokes they would say while you were present in those locker rooms.

UNDERWOOD: I'll start by saying this - and maybe you agree or disagree with me, but the locker room, in my eyes, was one of the most homophobic and homoerotic places that I've ever been. And it was so confusing when I was closeted because, at certain points, people can be making jokes about, you know, somebody's naked appearance and, like, be leaning into it and having fun and making it, like, loose and gay. And then all of a sudden, if you take it one step too far, you look a little too long, it's - it turns into, you know, being called, you know, the F-word. And, you know, it just - it escalates really quickly to where you're getting called out and you have to, like, defend yourself. And I just remember my experience in the locker room, I truly - and this is - I'm, like, not even proud to it - like, say this, but I had, like, a folder on - in my photos of, like, random girls' boobs just so that I had some proof of, like, oh, like, if that ever happened to me, it's like, oh, look what I just got sent - just to, like, fit into that alpha...

WILLIAMS: Wow.

UNDERWOOD: ...Hypermasculine culture because I never wanted to have to defend myself past that. And I think that - those were what always stuck with me. As far as jokes go, there were - you know, there was a new one made every single day. I mean, that - it's - it was what was deemed OK and part of the culture.

WILLIAMS: It's - you know, I've spent time being retrospective on this, as well. Obviously, when you go through a life-altering event, you look back on things that happened in the past. And you wonder, why did I say that or why was - why did I even allow those type of conversations to happen? And some of the demeaning things that men would say in the locker rooms to women - the fact that you would need to have pictures of women on your phone to show that you are part of this masculine community, that you - you know, hey, like, just in case - like, that's a problem within itself, right? Because that's one of things people don't talk about that happens in locker - for all the good things that happen in locker rooms, like, sometimes the way women are treated, the way people in the gay community are treated, it's - sports are supposed to be the thing that's uplifting to bring people together. And those are the two groups of people that you feel like get shot down due to the egos that exist in those locker rooms. Is that fair to say?

UNDERWOOD: Totally. And I think, you know, it comes from the overall culture. I mean, I know there's probably certain teams, certain locker rooms, that are better than one another. But the overall culture, while I can appreciate the approach for some of it - as far as mental toughness, fortitude, like, overcoming adversity - there's so many lessons that I've taken from the sport of football and from sports in general that have made me a better human being. But with that being said, there's also that stigma of manning up - right? - and what it means to be a man and what it means to be a leader. And I will say the sports culture is not accurate in depicting what that level of toughness and what that expectation is, at least now that I've had this year to really reflect on it.

WILLIAMS: I can't tell you the number of times I've been told, just be a man, Jay. And you know what I hate hearing about that? Those words literally burn a hole in my brain. You know why? Because every time someone says those words, what they're really saying is I'm not living up to their expectations of how they think I should or should not act. They're actually putting me in the box, and no human being deserves to be in the box. We're going to take a quick break. And when we get back, Colton breaks out of the boxes the world puts him in - the boxes of being an athlete, the bachelor and a gay man. This is THE LIMITS from NPR. I'm Jay Williams.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WILLIAMS: You're so articulate in how you are able to express your opinion on delicate matters, and I think that's important. I think we need more people like you in today's age who have a platform, who can be open and have transparent conversations. So I would like to get your advice on this because it's something that I'm facing more and more at ESPN and - or on all sports platforms, that I think is sensitive to a lot of people. It feels like it's impossible these days to talk about being LGBT in sports without talking about the onslaught of conservative backlash to trans athletes participating in sports. And honestly, it feels like every week, there's another state trying to pass some homophobic or transphobic legislation. I'm curious - what would you say to those parents who say they're just trying to protect the sport? How would you talk to those people, Colton?

UNDERWOOD: I would say - I would challenge those people to say, you are willing to protect a sport over protecting a human life at this point. I mean, people - these kids truly are being - I mean, the trans youth is being - the trans community as a whole is being murdered. I mean, they have a higher suicidal rate than anybody else in our community and of other youth. But on top of it, I cannot relate to a trans person because I'm gay. My sexuality - we're still in the same community. I can't relate on that level. What I can relate to is being discriminated against and not feeling safe in my environment to come out. So whatever these parents want to say as far as protecting this sport, how about you protect a life? How about you protect a kid and you make them feel safe instead of making your sport feel safe? That's - that would be more my messaging.

And also, you know, I think I'm going to blank on who said this, but I saw a quote. And it said, "I've never seen so much hate spewed at so few people." And I think it was the Utah governor when the bill was trying to be passed. And it's so true. For what a small percentage of trans athletes are out there, there is such a large amount of people so upset and so disturbed by this. And in reality, I think it's one of those those moments of fear and insecurity that I had to go through, too, in locker rooms.

WILLIAMS: You know, I mean, you talk about young people committing suicide at a very high rate. I can empathize with that. I had two failed attempts at suicide. I know that you yourself - after "The Bachelor," you struggled with suicide. Can you take us through what that experience was like?

UNDERWOOD: Yeah. I think I had done so many things in my life to try to be somebody who I was not born to be because I wanted to fit in, because I wanted to please the people around me. And I didn't want to let people down and all while I was letting myself down my entire life. You know, I, for 29 years, was living inauthentically to who I was because that's what I felt like society, my family, my religion - they wanted me to be all the way to the - you know, the point where I was medicating. And, you know, there is also a big stigma around mental health medication.

And what that ended up happening to me is me misusing my medication because I didn't - you know, people were going to call me crazy for being on Lexapro and for taking Xanax to have to fall asleep. You know, I didn't - I started hiding it and doing it in shame. And then that led to me taking more Xanax just to get through the day, which then eventually led to me taking a half a bottle and not wanting to wake up. And, you know, I think what I remember pretty vividly is, is when I did wake up, I knew that I had to make a big change. I was going through some other things at the time, as well as - I mean, I was - I had somebody blackmailing me. And it was like life felt, like, truly rock bottom at that moment. And...

WILLIAMS: Wow.

UNDERWOOD: ...I didn't know what was in store. All I knew is that I wanted to live, and I wanted to choose to live for the first time in my life. And I had to make the changes that I needed to make. And I actually drove back to Colorado and moved back in with my dad. I handed him the medication and told him I needed to get help. And I got help. And I met with a psychologist and a therapist every week for, like, the next two months while I lived with him. And he took my phone away from me - truly, as a 29-year-old man, took my phone and said, you're going to stay off social media. It's not good for you right now. There is a lot of stuff going around in the press at that time, too, so it ended up probably saving my life, making the decision to move back in with him and having him sort of take care of me.

WILLIAMS: Colton, social media is such an addictive thing. It's - when I talk to young kids at different camps or different seminars, when you see people go through the effort about the content that they post, they automatically feel redeemed or rewarded by all the likes or all the comments. But at the same time, look. I get people that tell me every single day that, oh, you should've died in your motorcycle accident. Or did you hit your head too hard when you got hurt? Or who are you to commentate on somebody else? You wrecked your career. You ruined your life.

Like, to combat that daily and to not absorb that is one of the most challenging things of my life. It always is. And I try to talk to my wife. I talk to my kids about it. I'm curious - what tricks did you learn while seeing a therapist to learn how to flip that energy and not absorb it but almost, in a way, deflect it and say, I know who I am; I know who I want to be, and I'm not going to allow this to penetrate who I am?

UNDERWOOD: I think there was a realization when I was talking to my therapist and my psychologist that I had always been told who I was growing up. I was a Christian. I was an athlete. And when I was that, I had to act and fall in line and be a specific person and version of myself. But what I realized is I am now in the driver's seat of my own happiness and my own life to make my own decisions. It doesn't mean that I don't have to pay attention to my past. It doesn't mean that I don't have to learn from it because I do, just like I feel like everybody does. It's - they have learning moments, right? And they make mistakes. And mine happen to be very public. And that now enables people to attach words and thoughts to me without knowing me or who I was or what type of situation I was in or what I was going through at that moment in my life.

But instead of letting those words stick, I take it in and reflect, you know, how do people view me - or why do people view me like that now? Am I the same person? Am I the same version? And for me, the simple answer is no. I'm so much different now. I'm a changed man since coming out. I'm a changed man since I went and got help and continue to get help. And I think that is important to at least acknowledge with myself and reflect on a daily, if not weekly basis. I'm just saying, I'm changed. I'm growing. I'm evolving. And that's life.

I mean, that's what's wrong right now with our culture as far as, like, people being like, he's done. He's done. Don't listen to her. Is this person canceled? It's like, we can learn from one another, especially with social media. Look what they just did. Look - like, look at the bad decision that they just made. Don't make that decision, you know? Or maybe ask - take it a step further and say, why do you think someone like that, who seemed to have it all going on and all the possibility in the world, what led to this event? And I think, like, you would get more out of that. And at least I know I've gotten a lot more out of that now by showing empathy, patience and compassion for other human beings.

WILLIAMS: My brother, I'm on the same page with you. I laugh all the time. It's like, if your car breaks down, you go and you see a mechanic. You don't listen to somebody who's never had their car break down before, right? So if I want to learn how to deal with adversity, why wouldn't you learn from the people that have gone through the adversity so you can expunge the details about how they process it and how they came through? But your conversation really leads me to something about labels because people still talk to me like, oh, Jay, you're the basketball player. And I'm like, well, I haven't been a basketball player since I was 21 years old, right? I'm 40 now. I'm so much different, and I've evolved as a person. I'm a father. I'm a husband. I'm all these other things. You became famous for dating women on TV - right? - like, extremely famous by it. I can imagine that only had to make it harder for you to come to terms with what you felt inside while you were publicly portraying yourself to be something different.

UNDERWOOD: Yeah. I mean, and that's a prime example of - I do not regret doing that because I don't think, one, I would be alive or I would have ever came out if I didn't take those steps. But then, two, I definitely could have handled that situation and putting myself in that situation in a much better way or approach. And I was pretty naive after the show ended in thinking like, OK, like, onto the next thing. I'm just going to, like, change my narrative. Like, instead of being the football player, now I was the bachelor, and now I don't really want to be known as the bachelor anymore, so I want to go find my next identity. And I had the realization that, like, I can still be a football player and the bachelor and gay, and I don't need - I can't keep living just thinking I have one identity. Like, I have so many different things that make up Colton - right? - so many different phases of who I am.

And I think there was a big part of me that always was trying to, like, shake a label and hop into the next label or into the next box because that's sort of what society wants. Society wants to put you in a box and categorize you correctly. But life evolves, life happens, and your profession changes. And just like you, it's like, you are still a basketball player, but you're also an entrepreneur. You're also, you know, a broadcaster. You're also all of these other amazing things that, you know, maybe only a specific group of people get to see. But validating yourself and realizing that is powerful, too. And I think that's what it took for me to realize that, like, OK, I don't want to completely leave "The Bachelor" behind because, like, it is a part of my life that truly made me into who I am.

WILLIAMS: I mean, you've had a chance to do so many different things. It's kind of funny, right? At first, you were famous for being straight. Now you're one of the most famous gay people in the world. I'm curious - what's the biggest difference between being an icon for straight people versus gay people?

UNDERWOOD: Oh, gosh. I would not consider myself an icon for gay people right now. But I would say, like, you know, it was so interesting...

WILLIAMS: Colton, I would just chime in for a second. I'm telling you, man - I just want to push back on that for a second for you. I think you are. I think you are. And I'm not saying you need to call yourself that. But from somebody who's lived in this culture for a very long time, my whole life, the self-exploration that you've gone through and the place that you're at right now, I commend you, and I applaud you for it because everything in that culture that you came from forces you to suppress that. And if there's not a strong determination or will for who you are as a person, Colton, to combat that and to continue the process to find out who you are, then you never get to this place.

So I'm sorry for interjecting, but I think it's important that - you are one of those people, so I am going to call you that because I think you are deserving - you're setting the example for so many other young people, the more you talk about your story, who might have that same confliction to be more honest with themselves about what they're going through. So I'm sorry for saying - I just wanted to say that to you, man, because I think it's deserving for me to say that to you, brother.

UNDERWOOD: I appreciate that. Thank you. And I think there is - you know, there is still a part of me that is a little scared to have any sort of platform and responsibility right now just because I am figuring it out. And I fell on my face in the public plenty of times, but very, very hard, you know, the last two years. So I'm very careful now of, like, falling again, you know. So it's a slow approach that I'm taking to educating myself and slowly trying to do my own homework and really figure out who I am. And I know I'm going to make mistakes. Like, that's life, right? But I'm trying to continue to be - I'm trying to continue to be a role model for conservative America that does not get to see this representation and that does not feel like they fit in or they belong in our country or in our world right now, because a lot of people don't understand or don't want to do that work.

And that's where - back to your question - I think going from being a straight icon of "The Bachelor," where everybody was sort of praising you, putting you on a platform, rooting you on, to then all of a sudden being like, wait, hold on, did he lie and dupe us? And did he - so he was lying and he was inauthentic and he was ingenuine. And it's like nobody takes the time to really understand of, like, I was hurting. I was confused. I was hiding. And I wasn't - I was trying to be as open as I can with that. But at the same time, it was a survivor - it was a defense and survival mechanism for me.

WILLIAMS: I want to bring it back to something you said at the beginning of our conversation. When you were in school at a young age and you told your teacher you want to be a professional football player, and she said, come back with something more realistic, and you said, be a stay-at-home dad. Are you - is that part of the plan, that latter part? Colton because you smiled. There was a different energy that came from you when you said, be a stay-at-home dad. Talk to me.

UNDERWOOD: Totally. I - that's like one thing that, you know, I've always said in my life is I felt like I was born to be a dad. And I want to be, you know, a coach to my son or my daughter one day. I want to be there in their corner. You know, I didn't ever think it was going to be possible, obviously, to come out, but then, two, after coming out to be able to have kids. I never really researched it. And I didn't think it was going to be possible.

So now that I am out in a very healthy relationship, in love and taking those next steps and having those conversations, it's exciting. And planning now and trying to figure out, you know, how much of this world I want to share with people is complicated too, because I know people are invested in my relationships from my relationship show and also in my life and my coming out experience from putting that out there, too. But I'm also trying to set boundaries and understand what's healthy and what's not healthy for me. And I don't want to make that decision for my kid, either. But yes, I'm going to be - I'm definitely in the process right now of exploring what it looks like to have kids.

WILLIAMS: Man, I really appreciate you taking the time. I've learned so much. I know my viewers have learned so much. And please, if there's any way I can help you, you know, continue to get your story out there or anything that you do as relates to bills being passed, I would love to be an advocate for you and use my platform to help. And I really appreciate your story, how you continue to find yourself because, honestly, Colton, that's what it is for all of us. It's an ongoing process. And that should be applauded as long as you continue to do the work. So thank you, man.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you so much. And I'll take you up on that. We're going to be doing some cool work in the mental health space coming up. So I'll definitely lean on you and hopefully have your support and also pick your brain on some things that we're going to be working on.

WILLIAMS: Done deal, man. A big shout-out to Colton Underwood and his team for making this interview happen. His docuseries is called "Coming Out Colton," and it's available on Netflix. And be sure to subscribe to THE LIMITS+. This Thursday, Colton and I are going deep on parenthood and his cheat code for being true to yourself.

THE LIMITS is produced by Karen Kinney, Yolanda Sangweni, Mano Sundaresan, Leena Sanzgiri and Barton Girdwood. Our music is by Ramtin Arablouei. Videos for this episode were made by Nick Michael, Joshua Bryant and Annabel Edwards. Special thanks to Charla Riggi. I'm Jay Williams. And as always, remember - stay positive, and keep it moving.

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