Michael Sam has revealed publicly that he is gay, which could make him the first openly gay NFL player. The University of Missouri linebacker told his team last year that is gay, but only came out publicly today.
At a preseason practice last year, Sam’s University of Missouri coaches split players up into small groups and asked the players to go one-by-one and talk about themselves. They were instructed to talk about their hometown, their decision to play for Missouri, and to reveal something that other people might not know about them. It was during that team-building exercise that Sam, 24, told his team that he was gay. Sam reports that the announcement was anticlimactic and that most of the players had already suspected that he was homosexual.
Michael Sam’s admission of his sexual orientation did not affect the University of Missouri’s season, as the team went on to a record of 12-2 as well as winning the Cotton Bowl. Sam himself was named first team All-American and was also the Associated Press’ Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year, and led the league in defensive tackles and tackles for loss. The SEC is regarded as the number one league in college football. His team even voted Sam as the most valuable player for the University of Missouri.
Sam initially intended to come out after the draft, but upon realizing during the Senior Bowl this year that the media were asking questions regarding his social life and whether he had ever been seen with a woman, he made the decision to come out publicly now. That decision could result in Michael Sam being the first openly gay NFL player.
At 260 pounds and 6 foot 2, Sam told ESPN today that he is fully aware of the impact of being the first openly gay player in the NFL. He admitted that he is nervous, but said that he knows that he wants to play football in the NFL. Sam is expected to be an early-round pick in May’s NFL draft, which typically results in a successful professional football career. NFL mock drafts have Sam going in the third round. Players selected that high are seldom cut and often start games their first year in the league.
Sam is the only member of his family to go to college and he graduated from the University of Missouri in December. Raised in Hitchcock, Tex. as the seventh of JoAnn and Michael Sam’s eight children, Sam was raised mainly by his mother and lived for a time with another family. He has lost three siblings and has two brothers who are currently in prison. Sam says that his entire family has supported him coming out.
Prior openly gay professional athletes have included a 12-year veteran of the NBA, Jason Collins, who has not played in the league since coming out last year. A Major League Soccer midfielder, Robbie Rogers, played with the Los Angeles Galaxy after coming out as gay. If drafted this spring, Michael Sam would become the first active NFL player who is openly gay.
By Jennifer Pfalz