Michael Sam to the Alouettes: Beneficial Or Not?

On Friday, Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp announced the signing of defensive end Michael Sam, who was the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and was unanimously named an All-American that same year. He was drafted into the NFL in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams out of Missouri, only to be cut before the start of the season. He was later signed with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad and released in October.

Sam was on the Alouettes’ negotiating list and after failing to land a job following the first NFL Veteran Combine in March, he signed the two-year contract to play in the CFL. Is Michael Sam to the Alouettes beneficial in any way, or will he falter in the new league and have to fight for playing time?

Michael Sam Joins Strong Alouettes Defence 

The reason for Sam’s inability to find success in an American defence is the fact that he is both too small for a defensive end position and too slow for the linebacker position. Standing at 6’2″, 261 lbs, Sam ran a 4.91s 40-yard dash at the pre-draft combine in 2014 and ran the same drill in 4.99s at the veteran combine. This is considerably slower than the majority of linebackers at the 2015 NFL combine – only six of them ran longer times than 4.90 s. Based on the results from the 2015 CFL Combine, Sam’s time would have also been the worst had he been listed as a linebacker.

As a defensive end, he produced 3 sacks and 11 tackles in four pre-season games for the Rams last season but he needed to do better considering their defensive line is one of the best in the league. He failed to find his niche in Dallas and he was jobless once again. The catalysing factor that led Sam to the CFL was the fact that the Canadian game is much different than the American one and size isn’t as important on the d-line. A body type like Sam’s can fit in perfectly with the CFL and he can be a terrorizing factor.

Sam’s athleticism will give guards and tackles troubles this season – it even gave NFL offensive lines problems in the 2014 pre-season. Sam’s video from his time with the Rams and some highlights from his combine shows he can really move his feet well for a hand-in-the-ground type player. With the yard in between the lines in the CFL, Sam will utilize this athleticism to get quick jumps on rushes and may get to the quarterback faster than he would in the States, where size and strength is key when the o-line and d-line line up face-to-face.

Sam will have a mentor in John Bowman, who has a similar body type to Sam at 6’3″ and 255 pounds. Bowman is also a four-time CFL East All-Star and was named to the CFL All-Star team in 2010. Bowman anchored the Alouettes defence that won Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010.

If Sam is the reincarnation of the 32-year-old Bowman, the Alouettes have a very talented piece moving forward. Bowman can guide Sam through the steps of becoming an imposing lineman like he is in this league, even at his age.

Many say that Sam still needs to go through training camp and make the team, but his contract says otherwise. According to Mike Freeman of The Bleacher Report, Sam will earn $100,000 in his first season and $50,000 more in the following season. Popp has given Sam the money as if he already made the team, and not as if Sam still needs to try out for his spot on the team. Players who are looking to earn spots will make around half of Sam’s salary.

The Personal Questions

The debate about Sam’s homosexuality will likely be left on the sidelines once he comes north. Montreal is an extremely diverse city and will accept him with open arms. The fact that he would become the first-ever openly gay football player to play professionally in North America would be almost irrelevant in a city like Montreal – it will be headlines news, for sure, but won’t be deemed “a distraction”, as the American naysayers call him. Sam will just be another player that the fans will want to do his best.

As Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette pointed out in his column on Monday morning, Montreal was where Jackie Robinson broke the professional baseball colour barrier in 1946, playing for the AAA Montreal Royals before becoming the first African-American in the MLB the following season. 70 years after Robinson, the city hasn’t changed. Trust Montrealers to make history in a positive way by accepting Sam’s coming out.

On the field, Michael Sam will likely be extremely beneficial with his combination of size and athleticism that the league requires at the rush end position. With Bowman, Gabriel Knapton, Alan-Michael Cash, and Khaleef Mitchell, plus a stellar linebacking corps, the Alouettes defence gets even more terrorizing with Sam now in the mix. Off the field, Sam will be anything but a distraction in the city of Montreal and will be an inspiration to many young kids who are reluctant to join sports because of their sexuality.

 

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