A top player from what's arguably the top conference in college football came out on Sunday and Michael Sam could, within months, become the NFL's first openly gay jock.
Sam had an orchestrated coming out Sunday in coverage by the New York Times, ESPN and Outsports, a few months ahead of the NFL draft in May. That's when the first team All-American from the University of Missouri is expected to be picked as high as the third round. And if he is signed by one of the NFL's 32 teams, he'll become the first openly gay player in the country's largest professional sports league.
Sam made the pronouncement proudly and coolly, understanding its significance but making it clear that he wants his shot at pro football even more. He came out to teammates before last season, a campaign that ended with a 12-2 record and a Cotton Bowl win for Missouri.
“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” Mr. Sam said. “I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn’t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’ I would have said yes.”
On the record, the NFL backs Sam and issued an encouraging statement.
But AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz says that Sam's experience coming out to his college teammates should carry over to the NFL.
The fact that Sam’s homosexuality is now out in the open will lead to media attention for an NFL team that Missouri didn’t have to deal with. But nobody can question Sam’s teammates supported him. The locker room was fine. The team was fine. There’s no reason why that support shouldn’t carry over into the NFL.
Sam created a Twitter account on Sunday to thank his family and team. Within 14 hours, he gained nearly 49,000 followers.