The former Missouri defensive end and now NFL draft prospect announced yesterday that he's prepared to be the first openly gay active player in the NFL.
He was extremely matter-of-fact about it in an interview with the New York Times, simply saying "I'm a football player, and I'm gay."
Sam's teammates have known that he's gay for the entire season, and none of them revealed his secret. He probably could have kept it under wraps longer if he wanted to, but he said he needed to be the one to tell people. He didn't want to be dishonest with teams and with himself, and let the announcement potentially happen outside of his control later on.
People are already talking about how this could affect Sam's draft stock.
Even before the announcement, he was considered undersized for a defensive end, despite being the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous First-Team All-American, and being voted the team MVP by his Mizzou teammates.
Sam was thought to be a 3rd or 4th round prospect. While his sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with his ability to play on the field, some people believe that it could definitely make a difference with where he's drafted.
Peter King spoke with 3 general managers and an NFL scout. The consensus was that people shouldn't care, but they probably will.
In the words of one GM: "Should I really care? Is it going to be that big a deal? Aren’t we beyond this?"
But unfortunately, another GM revealed that it probably WILL matter, even if it shouldn't: “It’s not a shocking thing to me, and it won’t be to our organization. You’ll have old-school guys on your team saying, ‘Are you kidding, putting this guy on our team?’ And you’ll have other guys say, ‘Who cares? I knew two gay guys who came out in college.’ “
The scout said that the Patriots might be one of the teams that could be the best fit for Sam, which could actually make sense on a lot of levels: “It’ll totally depend on your leadership. A team with strong leadership at coach and in the locker room, like New England, I would imagine, would be okay. I could see Belichick say, ‘This is the way it is. There’s no story.’ And guys would just accept him. There’d be no choice. But without that strong leadership, I could see it being divisive, and I could see a team saying, ‘We don’t need this.’ “
Other factors that could lend credibility and likelihood to the idea of Sam ending up in New England is that Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn't mind picking guys who are unconventionally sized for their position. He might be interested in using someone like Sam as a hybrid DE/OLB to rush the QB off the edge.
Belichick has brought in players like Chad Ochocinco and Tim Tebow, knowing that there would be a lot of distractions around them, and he was able to manage it masterfully. I'll discuss this at length later in another post, but drafting Sam could actually be the best thing Belichick could do for his long-term legacy.
It looks like Michael Sam is a mature, talented young player ready to give 100% for whichever NFL team chooses him. It will be interesting to see who's willing to make the first move.