Former Indianapolis Colts head coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy stated that he would not have drafted Michael Sam, due to the ongoing distractions that comes along with the player’s name. Weeks before the NFL Scouting Combine, Sam went public about his homosexuality, making him the first openly gay player on an NFL roster. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL Draft, despite having a monstrous and significant college football season.
Tony Dungy stated to the Tampa Tribune that he ‘would not have drafted Michael Sam’ and that drafting him would not be a smooth ride. It would have been a situation that he would not want to handle, although he believed that Sam deserved a chance to prove himself in the league. Dungy also mentioned that he would have preferred another team to handle the extra attention that would come with Michael Sam.
Tony Dungy comes off a bit hypocritical in this stance. He argues that he would not want to handle the distractions of Michael Sam, but he was a strong supporter for Michael Vick, despite Vick being charged with federal felony charges relating to dog fighting in 2007. Vick was released from the Atlanta Falcons and faced prison time, but Dungy went on to emphasizing Vick’s talents regardless of the negativity that was circulating throughout the nation’s sports industry. Michael Sam is not facing any criminal charges, but if Dungy were still coaching, he may not have been Sam’s number one supporter.
Michael Sam has made a clear response to Dungy as he has chosen to not respond or interact at all with the legendary and former coach. His representatives have stated that although Sam is aware of Dungy’s comment, his main focus, like other NFL players, is his overall success and growth as a football player. Sam has cancelled an interview with Oprah Winfrey for a reality show because of the attention from Dungy’s comment and has stated he does not want this kind of attention to reflect on his current teammates of the St. Louis Rams.
Michael Sam was the 249th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, picked by the St. Louis Rams. Sam had an exceptional All-American season, and while others may have expected him to be drafted more in the middle of the draft, Sam did face other factors that may have affected his pick other than sexual orientation. Sam is considered a bit undersized to be in the NFL, as he stands at 6’2” and 261 lbs. Regardless, Sam’s last college football season was anything but standard. As a football player for the University of Missouri, Sam finished the season as a 2013 All-American, SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and First-team All-SEC. At the start of the season, Michael Sam opened up to his Mizzou Tigers football team and doing so may have been the reason why he had a successful, and arguably the best, season by any college football player.
Dungy is amongst those that may have questioned whether or not Michael Sam would fit in the NFL. His talents and successes as a Mizzou Tiger were recognized by the St. Louis Rams despite Sam’s sexual orientation. Tony Dungy would not have drafted Michael Sam, but his comments may have helped Sam and the Rams more than he realizes. Sam now has that much more reason to show he does deserve to be recognized as more than a homosexual, but also an exceptional NFL player.
Commentary by Tricia Manalansan