Former University of Missouri defensive end and NFL prospect Michael Sam announced on Sunday in interviews that he is gay.
Sam first spoke publicly about his sexual orientation with The New York Times' John Branch, but he also discussed his decision to come out on ESPN's Outside the Lines. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel passes along an inspiring quote from the former Tiger:
The NFL has already responded to this news with an official statement, which ESPN gives us a look at:
Shortly after, Sam took to Twitter to thank the football world for the support he has received:
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive commented on the announcement via Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press:
Robbie Rogers of the LA Galaxy, and another athlete who has announced he is gay, was quick to offer his support:
On Monday, Michelle Obama provided a statement to Sam on Twitter:
The 6'2", 255-pound lineman is a tremendous young player. As a senior, he recorded 11.5 sacks and 19.0 tackles for loss, according to Sports-Reference.com. Helping the Tigers to a 12-2 record and a win in the Cotton Bowl, he won Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, a conference typically brimming with defensive talent.
As a result, he is expected to be selected as soon as Day 2 of the draft. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 9 DE and a projected third-round pick, while ESPN (subscription required) has him a little lower, rating him as the No. 16 DE.
CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman talks about Sam's talent:
One looming question remains, though: Will this affect his draft stock?
According to a veteran NFL player, via Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, it may just depend on what team is interested in him, as some locker rooms are more accepting than others:
Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who has been in the news in recent months regarding off-field incidents, commented on Sam's courage in wake of the announcement:
ESPN's Bomani Jones, however, isn't convinced the problem will be in the locker room:
When it comes down to it, Sam's sexual orientation has no bearing on his ability to play football. As such, this news should have zero effect on how teams evaluate his future.
Nevertheless, we still live in a society where coming out as gay isn't easy because public acceptance isn't universal. That makes Sam's announcement incredibly brave, as both Matt Miller and Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report point out:
No matter what effect this has on his draft stock in a couple of months, there's a ton of risk involved in making this statement. Certain NFL personnel, via Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, have already said it will hurt Sam's stock:
Sam had to know that might happen. And because of that, you have to applaud him for having the immense courage to be himself at an excruciatingly difficult time.
Unfortunately, this may also serve as a distraction. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Sam's reps are already working with the NFL to keep talk of this news at a minimum during the upcoming combine:
If Sam eventually signs with an NFL team—not really that big of an "if"—he will become the first openly gay player in the league, per Branch.
Soon after that, he'll hopefully just be known as another mid-round steal.