Former University of Missouri All-American linebacker Michael Sam is looking to make history as the first openly gay player in the NFL.
The initial assumption in these situations is a player seeking to increase their stock with additional publicity. Yet Sam was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and lead his Tigers squad to an 11-2 record, including a win against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Sam is simply saying he’s gay and wants to play.
Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year, said that he is gay in an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Sunday.
Sam stated publicly what his teammates and coaches at Mizzou have known since August: “I am an openly, proud gay man.”
“I understand how big this is,” he said. “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.”
“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay,” he said. “I’m comfortable in my skin.”
Despite his impressive stats speaking volumes for his football caliber, Sports Illustrated is already projecting his draft stock to plummet solely for the inevitable media attention his sexuality in and out of the locker room will bring.
The case of Chris Kluwe, the ex-Minnesota Vikings kicker who claimed to have been fired for his relentless support for the gay community, also suggests Sam will still have an uphill battle to climb despite receiving an overwhelmingly positive response to his coming out, including gaining 18K new Twitter followers.
Judgement Day for Sam comes Thursday, May 8 when the NFL Draft kicks off. Hit the next pages for pics of some of the linebacker’s greatest flicks.
Photo: Mike DiNovo, Tim Heitman, Denny Medley/USA TODAY, KY3.com, Laurie Skrivan, Instagram/MikeySam52