A former Carolina Panthers player wowed judges Monday night on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice.”
Esera Tuaolo, who played defensive tackle for the Panthers in 1999, auditioned during Monday night’s season premier. His performance of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” impressed judges Jennifer Hudson and Blake Shelton in particular, both of whom wanted to be Tuaolo’s coach for the show. He ended up picking Shelton as a mentor.
Tuaolo was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and played nine seasons in the NFL in the 1990s, including stints on the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, according to NFL.com. In his final season in the NFL, Tuaolo played for the Panthers and had one sack, according to Pro Football Reference.
Since retiring from the NFL, Tuaolo came out as gay in 2002 and is an advocate for the LGBT community, according to his website. In an interview on “The Voice,” he described his experience coming out to his family as a huge relief.
“When I said those words for the first [time], when I said that I was gay, it was like this huge mountain just crumbled,” he said. “I felt light as a feather, but when I jumped on the scale I was still that 6-foot-4, 300 pound Samoan that’s gay and played in the NFL.”
LaVendrick Smith; @LaVendrickS