Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who is projected as a mid-round NFL draft pick, came out publicly on Sunday and may be the first openly gay player in the NFL if he is drafted in May and makes a roster.
In interviews with ESPN and the New York Times, Sam said, “I am an openly, proud gay man.”
Sam came out to his teammates before this season in August, and said he came out publicly because he didn’t realize how many people knew he was gay when he was at the Senior Bowl two weeks ago. He said many scouts already knew, and Sam was going to tell NFL teams that interviewed him about his sexual orientation anyway.
“I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me,” he said. “I want to own my truth. … No one else should tell my story but me.”
Sam also said he realizes the historical nature of his announcement.
“I understand how big this is,” he said. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”
Sam said that he first confided to two of his best friends on the team once he felt that they would not mind. He finally came out to his teammates in August, and Sam said that many of them had already known or suspected that he was gay.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam told the Times.
If he is drafted and makes an NFL roster, Sam would be the first player in a major American sport to be openly gay and recognized by the media. Jason Collins, the NBA journeyman who came out last year, did not make an NBA roster this season after his announcement.
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 10, 2014