Former Missouri Tiger Michael Sam was a household name when it came to fantastic defenders during the 2013 season, and the nation wasn’t shy with the honors. He was named the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. Earlier on Sunday, to most outside the Missouri program, he was your standard excellent football player.
As of Sunday night, he may have set in motion a future of him becoming the NFL‘s first openly gay participant.
What an opportunity for young Mr. Sam. A number of questions come up immediately. Will this impact his draft status? Will his eventual teammates and fans around the league accept him? Will he ultimately regret this decision? “I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay,” he told ESPN’s Outside The Lines. “I’m comfortable in my skin.”
Few organizations will let this announcement affect their views of adding Sam to their roster come the 2014 NFL Draft, but some will.
Homosexuality has ended friendships and made life in locker rooms miserable. There’s at least one club that’s questioning its views of the defender right now because of how he could possibly hurt the bottom line or overall perception. On the opposite end of the spectrum, for many franchises, this changes nothing. He is what he should be: a crucial piece of the puzzle towards the playoffs or a Super Bowl.
More than this, Sam has shown nothing to indicate that he’s not a good person with a passion for the game of football and a desire to excel at the next level like so many before him. He also told Outside The Lines that once he came out to his teammates at Missouri, not only did they support him, they rallied around him.
His decision can be called nothing short of brave. With what he’s been through as a youth with family being ripped from his life, the potential slurs and abuse of fans and teammates clearly mean nothing to him. It’ll be fascinating to see the positive aspects of his career. If his jersey is sold, will fans wear it? Will kids line up for his autograph following wins? Will they pick him first in their Madden fantasy drafts or make a trade to make sure he’s a part of their team?
It takes a brave man to do what Sam did. Moving forward, we get to see if fans and other players can be as transparent with who they are. Hopefully, the good will outweigh the bad. Regardless, Sam’s earned my respect for his actions and I wish him nothing but a brilliant career.