As a rugby player, Campbell Johnstone 'pushed away' his sexuality. Now, he wants to open the door for more people to come out

    Campbell Johnstone (center) looks to evade a tackle during a match between the Crusaders and the Sharks in February 2006.

    (CNN)During his rugby career, Campbell Johnstone built a reputation as a tough scrummager with "the best right shoulder in the game," according to one of his former coaches.

    He played three times for the All Blacks -- a dream for thousands of young rugby players in New Zealand -- and represented club teams at home and overseas.
    But for all his commitment and uncompromising physicality on the pitch, Johnstone was also hiding a part of himself.
      "I loved playing rugby," he tells CNN Sport. "And then one day, this other side of me, my sexuality, was coming through and I liked guys.
        "That didn't fit the picture and that wasn't part of my plan. I always pushed that to the back of my head and wouldn't address it -- just kept pushing it away and pushing it away and kept focusing on my goals."
        Last month, Johnstone became the first All Black to come out publicly as gay, around a decade after calling time on his rugby career.
        The response to the announcement, he says, took him by surprise. New Zealand rugby stars Ruby Tui and Aaron Smith, among others, praised Johnstone for his bravery on social media, while sports minister Grant Robertson, who is openly gay, thanked him for "blazing this trail" and inspiring "future generations to be open, happy and comfortable."