Michael Sam, the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year and Missouri’s All-American defensive lineman, told ESPN’s Outside the Lines and The New York Times on Sunday that he is gay.
Sam came out to his teammates and coaches at Mizzou last August during preseason training camp. Their reaction was “awesome,” and Sam said he hopes the support he received from the Tigers will continue throughout his career, as he could become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam told Chris Connelly of Outside the Lines. “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 is projected to be a mid-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft after leading the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, but he said he’ll be happy playing for whichever team wants him.
“I just want to go to the team who drafts me,” he said, “because that team knows about me, knows that I’m gay, and also knows that I work hard. That’s the team I want to go to.”
Sam said he’s ready to face the attention head-on.
“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay,” he said. “I’m comfortable in my skin.”
Photo via Twitter/@RyanMoult