Michael Sam made history on Saturday when he became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. And while the St Louis Rams' seventh-round selection has been the subject of countless interviews since coming out publicly in February, he recently spoke about the timing of his decision to reveal his sexuality.
In an interview with People, via Jeff Truesdell, Sam admits that he had originally planned to come out after landing on an NFL roster:
"When I came out in February, it actually wasn't the time I wanted to come out. I was going to come out to my [pro] team – whoever drafted me."
The former Missouri defensive end and reigning co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year was selected by the Rams with the 249th overall selection on the final day of the 2014 NFL draft.
Sam, who recorded 19 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Tigers in 2013, also talked about his senior season at Missouri and how the program responded to him after he came out to his coaches and teammates last fall, per Truesdell:
They knew they could tell whoever they wanted to, but they didn't. They kept it secret. They didn't have to. I was out. I did my own thing. I had my boyfriend...I'm probably one of the few to be as blessed as I am, to have great teammates the way I did, and have the great coaching staff the way I did at Mizzou. Everyone in that program was so respectful of me, I wanted to give them all I got.
Although Sam was originally planning on breaking the news to his new team this offseason, pressure from those in the media led the 6'2", 260-pound pass-rusher to make national news at a vital stage of the NFL draft process, per Truesdell:
When I came out in February, I did it because when I participated in the Senior Bowl, I was surprised how many people in the media knew. Everyone who did an interview with me said, 'Okay, we know you're gay, can we break the story?' So I said okay, and I called my agent. The rest is history.
Sam also discussed the process of discovering his sexuality.
"I always knew I was different," Sam said. "I knew I had a male attraction probably in 7th grade, but I didn't act upon it. I didn't act upon it in high school. But college was different. College is all about experimenting. I did, and then I was like, 'This is who I am.'"
Despite taking a huge step toward realizing his ultimate dream, Sam will have to navigate an extremely difficult road this summer as he attempts to make the Rams' 53-man roster. St. Louis boasts one of the league's most talented defensive fronts, one that ranked third in the league in sacks last season.
But regardless of whether Sam is on an NFL roster next fall, his courage in coming out at such a pivotal moment of his career is commendable and serves as an excellent example to people from all different walks of life, as noted by author Patrick Ness:
After making history at the 2014 NFL draft, Sam surely has his sights set on making history on the field as he prepares to begin the next chapter of his football career.
That will be a challenge of course. With so much depth along the defensive line, including Chris Long and Pro Bowler Robert Quinn at defensive end, Sam will have to impress during camp and prove he deserves a spot. If he can latch on as a situation pass-rusher in Year 1, there's no doubt St. Louis will have one of the most formidable D-lines in the league.
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