Missouri defensive end Michael Sam told The New York Times and ESPN he is gay, and the 2014 NFL Draft prospect plans to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. Sam figures to be one of the top defensive draft picks this year. I was born in Columbia, Missouri and have been a Tiger fan since birth so his honesty makes me very proud indeed.
Some are saying that Sam has diminished his chances from being picked high in the draft but I don't. The people that run teams in the NFL want to win. Period. If Sam is a good player, he will get picked and it looks like he is top notch. He ranks among the top pass rushers in the SEC last year with 10.5 regular-season sacks (he had another one in the Cotton Bowl), boosting his NFL draft stock despite his lack of size for the defensive end position (6-foot-2, 255 pounds). He was also voted Team MVP by his coaches and teammates this year who have known for the past five seasons that he is gay.
Make no mistake about it, though, this is a big deal and Michael Sam, like Jackie Robinson before him, is an American hero. The NFL's culture is notoriously anti-gay with the locker room stuck in the 1950s. Most people under the age of 30 won't give a shit about this but the older folks might get bunged up. It will be interesting to see what happens. For me, it's just another wonderful indicator of the progress we have made as culture.
Michael, good luck with your career. I know it will be a bloody magnificent one!