That’s because Michael Sam (pictured), an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year, came out of the closet in an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Sunday.
Sam says his sexuality was not a secret with his coaches and teammates at Missouri who have known since last August.
Bottom line: Michael Sam says he is “an openly, proud gay man.”
Yep, as we said at the top, the NFL draft, which is being held in May, should be very notable this year as Sam could become the first openly gay player in the history of the league.
“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 decided to speak out in interviews with ESPN and the New York Times comes after his experience two weeks ago at the Senior Bowl, where, he said, many already seemed aware of his sexual orientation.
“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.”
He had already confided in a few close friends, Sam recalled, and had dated a fellow athlete who was not a football player — so while coming out to his teammates last year was a key moment, it came almost as an afterthought, during preseason training camp.
“Coaches just wanted to know a little about ourselves, our majors, where we’re from, and something that no one knows about you,” Sam said. “And I used that opportunity just to tell them that I was gay. And their reaction was like, ‘Michael Sam finally told us.’ ”
Asked what that moment felt like, 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.”
Get MORE of this Michael Sam story at ESPN.