This past Sunday, All-American defensive lineman and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam, admitted that he is gay in an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
Considering the fact that Sam is a very impressive player who is eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft, he could very well become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL, if he is drafted by a team in the draft.
“I came to tell the world that I’m an openly, proud gay man,” Sam said in his interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
As you can clearly see from the statement above, this a brave young man who is proud of who he is and I am happy for him, most importantly, I am happy that he was able to tell his own story and truth and Sam appears to feel the same way.
“I want to own my truth,” he said. “Two weeks ago at The Senior Bowl I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me or tell a story. I just wanted to control the situation and tell my story.”
Being raised in Hitchcock, Texas, Sam admits that he grew up uncertain about what his sexual orientation was.
“I knew from a young age that I was attracted to guys,” he said, “I didn’t know if it was a phase … I wanted to find who I was and make sure I knew what was comfortable. So I didn’t tell anyone growing up.”
Then as if he didn’t already have enough on his plate during his childhood, he also admitted to facing some other tough moments during his childhood.
“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 … There were some hardships, some tragedies and adversity. Telling the world I’m gay is nothing compared to that.”
While, there will be always those who don’t like him because of his sexuality, there is no doubt that he is receiving support, one of those support systems being his Missouri Tigers teammates, who he came out to this past August.
“I told my teammates this past August, and they took it great.” Sam said. “They rallied around me, they supported me, and I couldn’t have asked for better teammates.”
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel showed his support along with the rest of the team but he also shared his support in a statement on Sunday night when he stated that he was proud of Sam and how he represented the program.
“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,” Pinkel said. “If Michael doesn’t have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don’t think there’s any way he has the type of season he put together.”
Sam’s also stated that his parents support his decision to come out publicly about his sexuality and have accepted him for who he is and love him for who he is.
“I told my mom and dad last week, and they just pretty much said, ‘We knew and we love you and support you,’ ” he said. “I’m their baby boy. I’m the first to go to college. I’m the first to graduate college. Something like this is just another milestone.
Sam is also receiving various support on social networks like Twitter, considering the fact that he has gained over 44,000 followers on Twitter and keep in mind that his number of followers on Twitter continue to increase.
The NFL even issued a statement in support of Sam.
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said in statement. “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.”
Now of course with his recent announcement there are some who are worried about his NFL Draft status. While he seemed to recognize that his announcement could have an effect on his draft status, he stated that his hope is that teams will look beyond the issue of his sexuality.
“I understand how big this is because it’s a big deal. No one has done this before and it’s kind of nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”
He is exactly right, it shouldn’t matter that he is gay. At the end of the day, he is a good football player, who can be difference maker and leader for any NFL team which is what teams should focus on.
He certainly knows how to play the game. As a senior in 2013, Sam was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team all-SEC selection and first-team All-American. He led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. While he finished his career with 123 tackles (including 36 for loss), 21 sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions. Now most mock drafts have him projected to be drafted as high as the third round but I am tempted to say he could even be drafted as a late second rounder but regardless of where he is drafted there is no doubt that he is one of the best outside pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft.
There is no doubt that he can make a lot of teams happy, he has very good quickness which allows him to explode past offensive tackles but he also has good body control and the strength to power through offensive tackles and pressure the quarterback. He has a good football IQ and is a good student of the game, understanding when to use his rip and when to swim or spin. Sam is a work horse, not one-year wonder who all of sudden busted on the scene, he has paid his dues and reaped the benefits of his hard work and dedication. He may not be the most talented defensive end in the NFL draft but he performs at a high level at all times.
“I just want to go to the team who drafts me, because that team knows about me, knows that I’m gay, and also knows that I work hard.” Sam said in his interview. “That’s the team I want to go to.”
Overall, I believe that Sam’s announcement will put tremendous pressure on him. There have been several NFL players who have come out, but only after their careers were over. So if drafted or signed as a un-drafted free agent, he could undoubtedly be the first to earn a roster spot which would could possibly make him the highest-profile player to do so to date. Then there is the issue of how Sam will be treated on the field and in the locker-room but until he is drafted or signed by a NFL team, it is all speculation on how he will be tested and treated on the field and in the locker-room. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Sam can handle what comes his way.
“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am.” Sam said. “I’m Michael Sam. I’m a college graduate. I’m African-American, and I’m gay, I’m comfortable in my skin.”
What Sam is doing and accomplishing right now with his announcement is truly amazing. I have no doubt that this moment will not only go down in possible NFL history but also in African-American history and I like the fact that he is not afraid of this moment and is embracing who he is. Remember to respect him for who he is, not judge him.
If you want to see Michael Sam’s interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” see the video below:
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit