Michael Sam, the first openly-gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, agreed to play football for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
The defensive end signed a two-year deal on Friday, according to ESPN.
Alouettes general manager Jim Popp gushed, “With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today. Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team.”
The Alouettes obtained exclusive CFL rights to Sam at the time he was named the SEC co-defensive player of the yer at the University of Missouri.
Sam stated, “I am very excited and proud to join the Montreal Alouettes … I cannot wait to put on the pads, get back on the field and work hard each and every day with my teammates to bring a Grey Cup to the great fans here in Montreal.”
Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. Despite registering three sacks in the preseason, he didn’t make the team. Later picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, he did not long survive their practice squad. After running a lead-legged 4.99 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL veterans combine, Sam surely saw his CFL fallback option as his best option.
Of course, Sam’s signing and the resultant publicity has nothing to do with the Alouettes’ attendance problems; Yahoo reported in November 2014 that the team’s playoff game against the B.C. Lions only drew 15,107 spectators, a terribly low mark for a playoff game. The Alouettes finished seventh in the nine-team league in attendance in 2014, roughly 13,000 fans less per game than league-leading Edmonton. The 2011 census showed Montreal has the 2nd highest population of any city in Canada, trailing only Toronto, and contains roughly triple the population of Edmonton.
Forward motion, three downs, 12 players per side, orange penalty flags, and longer end zones are among the unfamiliar football features that will greet Sam in the Great White North.
Past greats Doug Flutie, Warren Moon, and Joe Theismann all enjoyed successful NFL careers after playing several seasons in the CFL. Cornerback Brandon Brownder and pass rusher Cameron Wake play as successful active players who received a second look from NFL scouts because of their prowess in the CFL.