College Football Star Comes Out
By Chris Greenberg
Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, named a first-team All-American after the 2013 season, has publicly come out as gay. The college football standout is eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft and is poised to become the first active openly gay player in the league’s history. He spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time to The New York Times and ESPN on Sunday.
“I am an openly, proud gay man,” Sam told ESPN.
The 24-year-old from Hitchcock, Texas revealed to both outlets that he had come out to his teammates during a preseason football practice before the Tigers’ 2013 campaign.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam told ESPN. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”
A 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior who was voted co-defensive player of the year in the vaunted Southeastern Conference for the 2013 season, Sam made his announcement just two weeks before the NFL Scouting Combine begins on Feb. 22 in Indianapolis.
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty & courage,” the NFL said in a statement released on Sunday, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in NFL.”
Sam recounted for The New York Times the moment when he came out to his teammates during a team-building exercise at preseason practice last year.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam said.
After coming out to his teammates and coaches during the preseason, Sam starred on the field as the Missouri rolled to a 12-2 record and a 41-31 win in the Cotton Bowl. Given the type of year that Sam had, he was rated as the 12th-best outside pass rusher available in the upcoming NFL draft by ESPN Scouts Inc. and projected to be a mid-round selection. With the NFL’s readiness for its first active openly gay player an open question, Sam’s draft position will be watched closely in May. Several unnamed NFL personnel members interviewed by Sports Illustrated after Sam’s announcement believed that coming out would adversely affect his draft stock.