Michael Sam, a defensive end who just finished his eligibility at Missouri and will be attending the NFL Combine in two weeks, announced on Sunday night that he is gay. Cyd Ziegler of OutSports.com has the full story on Sam's decision and process to come out:
If Sam is drafted -- according to NFLDraftScout.com, he is projected as a third- or fourth-round pick, though individual team grades may vary significantly, especially in later rounds -- he would become the first openly gay NFL player ever.
The NFL openly welcomed Sam in a brief statement from Roger Goodell, noting that "any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL," but it's also worth noting that Sports Illustrated found several executives (all of whom remained anonymous) who said that Sam's decision to come out would amount to a distraction and would negatively affect his draft status.
Sam's teammates at Missouri first learned from Sam that he was gay in a 2013 team meeting. Sam went on to lead the SEC in sacks (11.5) and tackles-for-loss (19) In his senior year, and he added a critical scoop-and-score in the Tigers' 41-26 win over Georgia, the first game that truly signaled a seismic shift in the SEC East in 2013. Missouri went 12-2 and made it to the SEC Championship Game in its second year of SEC play.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mike Alden issued supportive statements on Sunday night on the school's official website in the wake of Sam's announcement.
"We're really happy for Michael that he's made the decision to announce this, and we're proud of him and how he represents Mizzou," Pinkel said. "Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other."