Jamie Kuntz got into his midsize sedan, in what he deems the middle of nowhere, and took a tour of his hometown of Dickinson, North Dakota. He went by his local coffee shop, The Brew, housed in an old Episcopal church and said hello to its owner. He made his way by the small downtown, stopping on the corner across from the train station to talk with a friend. He then headed by his old high school and the field where he played four years; the field where he earned himself a partial scholarship to North Dakota State College of Science, a two-year junior college, to play linebacker. It was only a few months ago that Kuntz,18, graduated from that same high school, and now he was back home again, two weeks into September, out of college, out of a job, out of football.
The reason? Kuntz was kicked off the NDSCS Wildcats team less than two weeks ago after he was caught kissing his boyfriend at a road game in the press box. He lied to his coach about it, later admitted the truth, and then was kicked off the team. The school said it was for breaking policy by lying, and also, for creating a distraction to the other players -- many of whom said Kuntz's public display of affection went way beyond kissing. Kuntz, though, says he was kicked off the team for something else.
"My sexual orientation," he said in his first on-camera interview since he was dismissed from the team.
Kuntz is gay, and feels that is the only reason he is riding around his hometown with a reporter on a recent Thursday afternoon, instead of practicing for the Wildcats' upcoming game with this teammates. Once football -- his biggest passion in life -- was over, he withdrew from the school.
Now, in an exclusive interview, Kuntz talks about just what happened in the press box that day with his boyfriend, who, to many people's shock, is 65 years old. He and his family speak about the controversy and the rabid media attention his story has received, and the difficulty in how publicly he was outed -- even if some of that was due, in part, to his own carelessness. And Kuntz also reveals personal connections formed with strangers because of his speaking out, while also detailing his own struggles, including the death of his father when he was 6 years old.
While Kuntz shares his story, so too does Athletic Director Stu Engen, as well as some of his former teammates, interviewed for the very first time. Many of them are frustrated, upset with what they perceive as an attack on the school, and an unfair labeling of it as a homophobic place.
"I'm friends with Jamie," said Trevon Money, a defensive end, "but you came here to play football. You didn't come here to do other things in the crowd."
Spending 48 hours in the middle of a political, emotional and media firestorm, I got a glimpse into what happens when an athlete is outed in small-town North Dakota, and how not only the community reacts, but how the world watches. Stay tuned Monday for more from Engen, Kuntz's former teammates and the divide this story has created in Wahpeton.