Michael Sam, a University of Missouri star defensive lineman and an expected NFL draft pick this spring, has come out of the closet as gay in interviews with the New York Times, ESPN, and Outsports, putting him on a course to potentially become the first out gay player in the National Football League.
The NYT reports:
Coaches at the University of Missouri divided players into small groups at a preseason football practice last year for a team-building exercise. One by one, players were asked to talk about themselves -- where they grew up, why they chose Missouri and what others might not know about them.
As Michael Sam, a defensive lineman, began to speak, he balled up a piece of paper in his hands. "I'm gay," he said. With that, Mr. Sam set himself on a path to become the first publicly gay player in the National Football League.
"I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads -- like, finally, he came out," Mr. Sam said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times, the first time he spoke publicly about his sexual orientation.
Outsports has more on Sam's award-winning year and draft prospects:
Sam was a standout on the Missouri Tigers team that went 12-2, which included a win in the Cotton Bowl. His 11.5 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles won him co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, the highest-ranked conference in college football.
His honors this year were numerous: first-team All-SEC; first-team All-America from the Sporting News, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Associated Press, America Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America. His skills as a lineman have him projected by draft analysts to be selected this May anywhere from the first to fifth rounds, depending on how he performs in the combine and at Missouri's pro day this spring.
And Sam told ESPN what his coming-out moment felt like:
"I was kind of scared, even though they already knew. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from Day One. I couldn't have better teammates. ... I'm telling you what: I wouldn't have the strength to do this today if I didn't know how much support they'd given me this past semester."
A video interview given by Sam to the New York Times is after the jump.
Welcome to the out and proud LGBT family, Michael, and thank you for setting a tremendous example for other current and future gay football players.