The NFL’s first openly gay football player might come as the result of the upcoming 2014 college draft. Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri and the Associated Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year, said that he is gay in an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday.
"I am an openly, proud gay man," Sam said. “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 also revealed in the interview that his college coaches knew he was gay and that, apparently, so did many other players. "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."
When it came time to tell hiws coaches Sam was understandably nervous. "I was kind of scared, even though they already knew. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from Day One. I couldn't have better teammates. ... I'm telling you what: I wouldn't have the strength to do this today if I didn't know how much support they'd given me this past semester."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement that he's proud of Sam.
"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."
Sam also took some time during the interview to discuss his upbringing and how past adversity has helped get him during this time.
"I endured so much in my past: seeing my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to meet her. My second oldest brother went missing in 1998, and me and my little sister were the last ones to see him ... my other two brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade, currently both in jail.
"Telling the world I'm gay is nothing compared to that."
On Sunday night, the NFL released a statement supporting Sam.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello said in the statement. "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."
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