Tim Sharp/Associated Press
Talk about being under a microscope.
Michael Sam enters the combine with all eyes trained on him. The pass-rusher out of Missouri recently made the announcement that he is gay, making him a pioneer heading into the NFL.
He also created a media maelstrom.
While his sexual orientation has nothing to do with his ability as a football player, his performance at the combine could go a long way toward solidifying his draft status. If he falters, though, it could give teams an excuse for letting him fall in the draft.
Of course, the big one is the 40-yard dash, but the drills could make or break his combine. Here is what NFL.com's Chase Goodbread had to say regarding Sam at the combine:
For Sam, trainer Travelle Gaines told "NFL AM," it's something else.
"Hip flip is the most important thing for Michael Sam to show at the NFL Combine," Gaines said, "because the bottom line is this, if you can't turn and run, you can't play in the NFL."
The hip flip drill requires athletes to backpedal, then turn and sprint, to show NFL scouts their flexibility in coverage. Sam (6-foot-1, 255 pounds) is undersized to stay at the defensive end position, where he amassed 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss as a senior at Missouri. As such, he'll likely have to make the switch to linebacker, which requires an entirely different skill set.
Along with the hip flip drill, Gaines said Sam will also be challenged to show change-of-direction skills, crucial for playing in pass coverage, but not something he required much of as a pass rusher in college.
Sam is already considered a 'tweener'—too short for defensive end but no experience as an outside linebacker.
Outside the drills, Sam has an opportunity to impress teams at interviews and show the world how he can handle a media frenzy. A false step on or off the Indianapolis turf could be disastrous for him, whether it's fair or not.