Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay on Sunday. Sam went public with his sexual preference in an interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines, though he says his teammates and coaches have known since August.
“I am an openly, proud gay man,” Sam said.
Sam said he made his decision to come out publicly at the Senior Bowl two weeks ago. After realizing that many people already knew he was gay, the All-American defender did not want to risk having someone else tell his story.
“I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me,” he said. “I want to own my truth. … No one else should tell my story but me.”
Sam is eligible to enter the NFL Draft this year, so he could very well become the first openly gay player in the NFL. His revelation came less than two weeks after a Division-III kicker became the first openly gay player in college football.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam 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.”
During preseason training camp, Sam said the Missouri coaches wanted the players to share a little bit about their backgrounds. He used that as an opportunity to come out, though he said the reaction was basically, “Michael Sam finally told us.” While his teammates and coaches seemed to know, Sam said he was confused about his sexual orientation growing up in Texas.
“I knew from a young age that I was attracted to guys,” he said, “I didn’t know if it was a phase … I didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, I might be gay. I might be bi.’ I just didn’t know … I wanted to find who I was and make sure I knew what was comfortable. So I didn’t tell anyone growing up.”
Sam led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season, so he obviously has the potential to be an impact player at the pro level. ESPN Scouts Inc. rates him the 12th-best outside pass rusher and many expert project that he will be selected somewhere in the middle rounds.
“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate,” Sam said. “I’m African American, and I’m gay. I’m comfortable in my skin.”
We knew it was only a matter of time before there was an actively gay player competing in the NFL, and that could happen in 2014. Hopefully Sam is treated with the respect he deserves as a football player.Google+