NFL prospect comes out as gay: The National Football League may soon have it’s first-ever openly gay player, as All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam from the University of Missouri said that he is gay in an ESPN interview on Sunday.
Sam stated publicly in the “Outside the Lines” interview, “I am an openly, proud gay man.”
He told his teammates and coaches at Missouri last August, and said they fully accepted and supported him.
Sam was named the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press this past season. The SEC is widely recognized as the nation’s best college football conference.
Sam will be eligible for the NFL draft this coming May. Assuming that he is drafted by an NFL team, he will become the league’s first openly gay player in its history.
“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.”
In the ESPN interview, Sam said one reason he decided to make the announcement now was that he didn’t want something to leak out in the media first.
“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.”
When asked about the moment he told his Missouri teammates, Sam said “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.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement: “We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this, and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou,” Pinkel said. “Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”
Sam also said that he endured numerous tragic events growing up, and telling the world he is gay was nothing compared to that.
“I endured so much in my past: seeing my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to meet her. My second oldest brother went missing in 1998, and me and my little sister were the last ones to see him … my other two brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade, currently both in jail.”
The NFL released a statement supporting Sam on Sunday night: “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
NFL draft projections see Sam as a likely mid-round pick, with some scouts saying he could go as high as the third round.
Watch the ESPN interview here.