Michael Sam, a defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, made an announcement on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” Sunday (Feb. 9): He’s gay. If drafted by an NFL team later this year, Sam will become the first openly gay professional football player in history.
Sam tells ESPN’s Chris Connelly that while he came out to his teammates at Mizzou last August, he wanted to go public ahead of the NFL draft because he didn’t want anyone leaking the story. Sam wants to own his truth.
“It’s a load off my chest. I told my teammates this past August, I came out to my teammates and they took it great. They rallied around me, they supported me. I couldn’t ask for better teammates,” says Sam. “I was kind of scared even though they already knew. But I was still scared to tell them and to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from day one.”
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell
it. I just want to
own my truth,” Sam tells the New York Times, in a companion piece that was published concurrently with the ESPN interview.
Sam also says that compared to what he’s been through in his life — two brothers in jail, a third killed by a gunshot wound, a fourth who went missing in 1988 and a sister who died as an infant — telling the world he’s gay “is nothing.”
“I’m Michael Sam and I’m a football player. I want to be a football player in the NFL. I understand how big this is because it’s a big deal … it’s a kind of nervous process,” he says. “Hopefully players will see that they don’t judge me because I’m gay, they’ll see, hey, this person works hard. Can he win us games? Can he win us championships? It’s a workplace and you want to act professionally.”
Sam, a first-team All-American and the AP’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year, is projected to be taken in the fourth round by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, but some NFL sources tell Sports Illustrated that Sam’s draft stock has just plummeted. NBC Sports’ Joe Posnanski writes a scathing op-ed in response to what one NFL general manager told SI’s Peter King.
The NFL draft takes place May 8-10.