From the NYTimes (h/t commentor Yatsuno):
Coaches at the University of Missouri divided players into small groups at a preseason football practice last year for a team-building exercise. One by one, players were asked to talk about themselves — where they grew up, why they chose Missouri and what others might not know about them.
As Michael Sam, a defensive lineman, began to speak, he balled up a piece of paper in his hands. “I’m gay,” he said. With that, Mr. Sam set himself on a path to become the first publicly gay player in the National Football League.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Mr. Sam said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times, the first time he spoke publicly about his sexual orientation.
Mr. Sam, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior, went on to a stellar season for Missouri, which finished 12-2 and won the Cotton Bowl. He was named a first-team all-American. He was the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, widely considered the top league in college football. Teammates voted him Missouri’s most valuable player….
Mr. Sam, 24, is projected to be chosen in the early rounds of the N.F.L. draft in May, ordinarily an invitation to a prosperous professional career. He said he decided to come out publicly now because he sensed that rumors were circulating.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. “I just want to own my truth.”…
Thanks to commentor Raven for the video. Not gonna pretend I know from football (or any other sport), but it seems like the NFL should be able to find a place for Sams, since the league has hardly hesitated from “problematic” rookies in the past?
ETA: For the experts among us — Any chance of an NFL coach risking a ‘reverse Tebow’ pick for Sam, giving him a chance to demonstrate his skills for the screw-the-haterz publicity? I know there’s probably a lot more ‘good Christian’ homophobes paying the NFL ticket & cable fees, but surely there’s an under-served clatch of progressive fans as well?
ETAA: Smart talk from Marc Tracy, at TNR:
… Sam killed it this past season, leading his team to the conference championship game with a conference-leading 11.5 sacks. And his teammates knew. And they—dozens of college kids!—were respectful and discreet enough that we are only learning about this now, because Sam wanted us to. “There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that,” one NFL assistant coach told SI. Whichever NFL franchises believe their locker rooms aren’t ready for Sam might want to consider cutting everyone and starting afresh. They could do worse than by drafting this Missouri Tiger—or any Missouri Tiger.