If you haven’t yet heard the name ‘Michael Sam,’ you will soon.
The All-American defensive lineman, who recently graduated from the University of Missouri, revealed to the public this weekend through a series of interviews that he plans to pursue a career in the NFL, and that he’s openly gay.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam told ESPN on Sunday. “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.”
The response to Sam’s announcement has been incredible, but one group who wasn’t surprised by the 24-year-old athlete’s revelation was his Mizzou teammates, who he reportedly told back in August.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam recalls in an interview with the New York Times.
The knowing-response from his peers led Sam to the realization that more people were becoming aware of his sexual orientation, which was a big reason why he decided to come out publicly.
The 6’2”, 255-pound football player explained to ESPN that he wanted to avoid rumors and gossip before becoming eligible for early rounds of the draft in May, while also maintaining the right to determine his future and “own [his] truth.”
“I just want to go to the team who drafts me 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 tells ESPN.
Meanwhile, the internet has been flooded with support for Michael Sam and his choice to come out, while the NFL issued the following statement (via NFL.com):
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
With his announcement, Sam joins other openly gay athletes such as the NBA’s Jason Collins and MLS player Robbie Rogers, though if drafted, he would become the first-ever NFL player to be out publicly while in the league.
What do you think about Michael Sam’s decision to come out before being drafted into the NFL? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.