Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam believes he’s not in the NFL because he’s gay.
“I think if I never would have came out, never would have said those words out to the public, I would still be currently in the NFL. But because of me saying those words, I think it could have played a huge part in my current situation,” Sam said in a recent interview.
Actually, the biggest reason is his skill set, not homophobia.
Sam is what is called a “tweener” in the football scouting community. A tweener, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “an athlete who does not do not possess enough size for one position or enough quickness for another.”
Sam played defensive end at Missouri at 6-2, 261 pounds, which is small for the position in the NFL. So his ideal spot on the pro level is outside linebacker. But he isn’t particularly fast, timing 4.91 in the forty-yard dash, considered slow for a linebacker.
So, he lacks the requisite size for NFL defensive end, and lacks ideal speed and quickness for pro outside linebacker. So he’s a man without a position. He’s not alone. This is a problem that leads to a lot of good college players falling by the wayside.
When Sam entered the NFL draft in 2014, draft guru Nolan Nawrocki, compared him to Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English. English was a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 2009, and he never really panned out. He bounced around the NFL for a few years and has been out of the league since 2014. English had the same problem as Sam. At 6-2, 255, he was too small for defensive end, but wasn’t quick enough to play linebacker.
Most college offensive tackles are substandard. NFL offensive tackles are the best in the world. This makes NFL pass rushing much more difficult. English played as a sack machine in college, but he couldn’t do it in the NFL. He has plenty of company.
The Los Angeles Rams, then in St. Louis, took a flyer on Sam in the 7th round of the 2014 draft. He was released at the end of training camp, and joined up with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad briefly. Sam also had a short stint with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, but quit the team.
NFL teams crave good pass rushers. Sacking and pressuring opposing quarterbacks is a key to defensive success.
Last season, pass-rusher extraordinaire Von Miller spearheaded the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Guys like this are hard to find. There is a dearth of top-shelf pass rushers right now. Teams are searching far and wide for the next Miller.
If you can consistently sack the quarterback, teams want you and generally aren’t judgmental. Clearly, NFL executives and coaches don’t think Sam has the ability to get to the quarterback in their league. If they did, and he had a clear position, he’d likely have a job right now, regardless of his personal life.