‘Rise up’ isn’t just a name of a song - it pretty much sums up former NFL player Esera Tuaolo’s exceptional life as a football star and author. Now the multi talented super Samoan can add power vocalist to that list after he wowed “The Voice” judges with his rousing rendition of Andra Day’s “rise up” during a round of blind auditions on Monday night.
At 6 -foot-4 inches and 300 pounds, Esera Tuaolo’s stature is as soaring as his strong vocals which impressed judges, Jennifer Hudson and Blake Shelton who vied for his pick. But the 49 year olds power chords weren’t the only thing that wowed the crowd and judges. Tuaolo's story also served to win the hearts of the audience as he revealed on the show that during his 9 years in the NFL he lived with a secret that caused him years of anxiety and it wasn’t until he retired from his football career in 2002 that he finally came out as gay.
"When I finished in the NFL, I came out to my family," he said on the show, reported People Magazine. "When I said those words for the first [time]; when I said that 'I was gay,' it was like this huge mountain just crumbled."
In his memoirs, Alone in the trenches: My life as a gay man in the NFL, Tuaolo wrote;
“I struggled to survive the combative, macho world dominated by a culture that despised who I really am…this is the story of how I dared to dream, not only of surviving professional football but of living openly for who I am, a gay man”
While Tuaolo kept his sexuality a secret for many years, his singing abilities were actually more well known and he has in the past performed the American national anthem at football, baseball, hockey and basketball events. He has even released his own songs.
According to Today Magazine, Esera Tuaolo has a background that makes for a great story: A Samoan born in Hawaii, grew up in a poor family, was good at singing and football, and made it to the NFL, has a couple of kids, is an advocate and member for the LGBT community and loves Jesus Christ. If he goes far on “The Voice” his story could attract a lot of support.
Tuaolo eventually chose Blake Shelton’s team. The country singer tweeted his excitement about having him Esera Tuaolo on his team