Former University of Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam came out publicly as being gay Sunday night, telling multiple publications including The New York Times and ESPN.
Sam told the Times “I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it. I just want to own my truth.”
Sam is considered a mid-round NFL Draft prospect after winning Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors last year in the SEC. If he is selected or signed as an undrafted free agent, Sam would become the first openly gay athlete active in any of America’s four major professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL). Former NBA player Jason Collins came out last Spring but has not signed with a team since his announcement. Former Maryland Terrapins soccer player Robbie Rogers returned to the LA Galaxy in the MLS after announcing he was gay in recent years as well.
Sam finished the Tigers’ 2013 win season with 11.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles while helping the school win 12 games and the SEC East title (or any other division title) for the first time in school history. The Tigers won the Cotton Bowl for the first time since the 2007 season. Sam played at the collegiate level as a defensive end but is viewed by many scouts as being a linebacker at the next level.
Sam will certainly have an unprecedented level of attention placed on him over the course of the months leading up to the Draft. Sam is scheduled to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in two weeks, where he will likely face a media blitz even greater than the one former Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o faced a year ago after the Lennay Kekua scandal.
An SI report Sunday night quoted an anonymous former NFL general manager as saying “it would take an NFL franchise with a strong owner, savvy general manager and veteran coach to make drafting Sam work”. The former GM apparently “rattled off franchises like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and Indianapolis as potential destinations” per the SI report.
Interestingly enough, the Ravens have had contact with Sam at the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago in Mobile, AL. The Ravens made contact with essentially every player who participated in the All-Star Game, so it shouldn’t be considered much of a sign that they talked to Sam.
Alex Dunlap of Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com had snapped this photo of Sam chatting with unidentified members of the Ravens organization while filling out a questionnaire at the Senior Bowl.
DraftTV.com’s Shane Hallam shared this photo of Sam talking with NFL scouts in Mobile, including a member of the Baltimore Ravens organization. While not immediately identifiable, the person does appear to resemble Midwest Area Scout Jack Glowik.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith was the first current player to chime in on Sam’s announcement via Twitter, saying simply “good for him”.
Former Ravens DL Trevor Pryce echoed the sentiments of the GM quoted in the SI story, also naming the Ravens as an ideal landing spot for Sam.
Former Ravens OL Wally Williams showed his support for Sam via Facebook, noting he did not expect the star rusher’s sexuality to be an issue in the NFL.
In the same Facebook post, Williams also “confirmed” someone’s claim that a former teammate was bi-sexual.
Former NFL defensive back Bucky Brooks is now a draft scout for the NFL Network and NFL.com and joins “The Reality Check Driven by Jerry’s Automotive” every Thursday during Draft season on WNST. Brooks told NFL.com Sunday night he does not expect Sam’s draft stock to be affected by his announcement and views him as a mid-round prospect.
Former Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo was an outspoken supporter of gay marriage rights during his time with the club and received support from the team when faced with criticism from outsiders. Ayanbadejo, Collins and other gay athletes and gay supporters spent time with Sam in the lead-up to his announcement. Ayanbadejo detailed the meetings for FoxSports.com.
We are still roughly three months from the start of the NFL Draft, but it will certainly be interesting to see how things play out for Sam and if the Baltimore Ravens indeed end up being an option.
We will be discussing Sam’s historic announcement Monday throughout the day on WNST and taking your thoughts/opinions on the possibility of him putting on the purple and black in 2014.