If Michael Sam did not know it, he knows it now. If selected in May’s 2014 NFL draft he will become the NFL’s first openly gay player in the league, but Sam wants to keep the focus on football. The prospect wanted to wait until the draft process to make his announcement to owners, coaches, and staff but what Sam did not know was that most of them already knew that he was gay. Most of the scouts shrugged it off, surprising mostly Sam himself as he went through some of the interviews. Sam was somewhat concerned by the knowledge that people already knew, thinking maybe someone close to him may have gone a little too far with his story. Sam wanted to make it clear that he only wanted to share his story and his own truth, as he put it. While trying to move on from one aspect of his life and career to the next, he wants scouts to view him as the monster wearing pads and nothing else.
Scouts for each NFL team are concerned with the overall impression of a draft prospect’s make up, and what kind of talent the pick may possess. To go along with his recent announcement, Michael Sam’s baggage includes recent awards like Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, a First Team All SEC selection, and also a designation as an All American Defensive Lineman. He in part helped carry the Missouri Tiger football team to a 12 – 2 record and an AT&T Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Just this year, the defensive lineman compiled over 11 sacks on the season to go along with his counterpart and potential first round pick, Kony Ealy, who racked up nine sacks on the season. Both players helped form a very formidable front and carried a defense that was considered very potent, heading into the bowl game.
One of the biggest questions following his announcement is how NFL teams will react to the news. There have been many gay advocates clamoring for someone to come out to the the public, but they have so far refused. Two of the biggest advocates that were in the NFL were Brendon Ayenbadejo and Chris Kluwe, both players who are currently not on an NFL roster. A player being openly gay does not happen too often in many male sports, and the possibility of Michael Sam making history in the NFL with doing so, may cause more curiosity and attention that a team may not welcome into their locker room. Further evaluation will be needed to see how this will be handled. The first order of business is that Michael Sam will need to be drafted.
The truth be told, when it comes to draft day scouts want the best talent colleges can offer to their teams. The Missouri prospect may cause conflict of opinion around locker rooms, but once on the field he plans on continuing a conflict he started when he first started playing, making offenses as miserable as he can while imposing his will. Not many players in the collegiate world played their position better then he did, and many think it would be a mistake to leave Sam undrafted. Michael Sam potentially making history in the NFL as being the first openly gay player may mean less to him then it does the scouts. The only thing both are focusing on at the moment is the draft combine, any other occurrences will take care of themselves while he works to live the football dream.
By Justin Huffman