On the heels of Jason Collins’ announcement to Sports Illustrated last spring, it appears the NFL is about to get its first openly gay player. Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri Tigers and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year, made the announcement that he is gay in an interview with ESPN on Sunday.
Sam said that he told Missouri teammates and coaches in August, just prior to the NCAA season, “I am an openly, proud gay man.”
“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.”
Sam has finished his senior season and is an NFL draft prospect, listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 260 pounds. His senior season was exceptional, as he led the SEC with 10.5 sacks, and added 45 tackles; Missouri finished 12-2 and won the Cotton Bowl, and Sam’s teammates voted him team MVP.
Eligible for the NFL draft in May, most draft analysts see Sam as a mid-round pick. His draft grades range anywhere from the third round to the fifth. Depending on whether he is drafted by a team that plays a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, Sam could either play defensive end, or switch to outside linebacker at the pro level.
“Sam is an explosive rusher, a prototypical Missouri pass rusher who is undersized for a down lineman, but perfect for a standup rusher. While Sam is not nearly as athletic as Aldon Smith, they possess a similar skill-set. Sam will never be a double-digit producer, but he very well will be a solid starter for a team within the next few years.”
We at LWOS salute Sam for his courage in coming forward. He becomes yet another ambassador for a movement that believes all athletes should be judged by their performance on the field of play, and not based on sexual preference. While this is a big deal today, it will be an even better when announcements like this no longer matter. It’s the courage of people like Sam and Collins are what will eventually make that possible.
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