Michael Sam isn’t the first member of his family to disrupt the status quo. In 2009 his aunt, Geraldine Ford, became mayor of the tiny town of La Marque, Texas.
A late flood of ballots from senior citizens, who seemed to like the Republican contender, pushed her to victory. It was a massive upset; she became the first African-American mayor in all of Galveston County.
The result didn’t go over well with everyone — after she won the election, someone called the police station threatening to kill her.
Even today, tones of racism remain in the small Texas town; a fire department captain in La Marque lost his job after posting a picture of Barack Obama with a noose around his neck to his personal Facebook page.
Michael Sam grew up one town over from La Marque, in the even smaller settlement of Hitchcock, Texas. His childhood was, to say the least, disastrous. His parents divorced not once, but twice. His sister drowned in a pool when she was two years old. Two of his brothers are in prison, one was shot to death and another just disappeared.
The Sam family is clearly used to dealing with life’s drama and unpredictability. They take solace in supporting each other though, which is why when Michael publicly declared that he was gay, he knew that at least he had an encouraging family to fall back on.
“He’s made history,” Sam’s aunt Geraldine told Fox Sports’ Tully Corcoran. “He really has made history and I’m really proud of him.”
She found out like much of the rest of the world did, via television and social media. Michael had only just told his own father last Tuesday, which was also his Dad’s birthday.
”I was shocked,” Michael Sr. said to Corcoran. “I’m proud of him. He’s my son.”
Perhaps just as surprising is Sam Jr.’s path to the NFL. Originally rated a two- (out of five) star recruit by college scouts, Missouri took a chance and watched him blossom into a first team All-American who led his team to a 12-2 record in 2013. Last summer, he revealed his sexuality to the team, who took the news incredibly well and gave Sam support throughout the year.
Now, Sam stands on the verge of becoming the first openly gay man in the NFL. There will obviously be significant backlash to his announcement, and it may affect where he’s picked in the draft. That’s all OK, though, because the family that got him where he stands today will continue to support him.
“We’re prepared for those differences of opinion,” Geraldine told Corcoran. “I tell people all the time, if anyone has anything to say negative about him, come see me. I have a word for you. That’s my nephew and I do have his back.”