Missouri Tigers DL Michael Sam broke the news on Sunday that he is gay and that he came out to teammates in early 2013. His announcement has the world buzzing with the potential him being the first openly gay player in the NFL. Though that’s his storyline for now, his stat line and accolades might join another controversial athlete, Manti Te’o, with the San Diego Chargers.
When news broke last year of Te’o’s catfish scandal, the media surrounding him immediately downplayed his physique and his football IQ. Of course, instead of being picked up in the first round, he dropped to the second and Tom Telesco took a chance on him. Though Te’o’s play is still coming along, he didn’t have an immediate impact like fellow picks D.J. Fluker and Keenan Allen.
At the moment, Sam is projected to be taken in the third or fourth round, and his draft stock might fall like Te’o’s even though he is the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Sam led the SEC in tackles for loss (19) and sacks (12). At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, he might be small for a traditional 4-3 lineman. But in the Chargers’ 3-4 defense, he could be an impressive rushing OLB. He could be a great complement to Melvin Ingram, and veterans Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney.
If Sam is available in the later rounds, he could be this year’s Allen. John Pagano has done a decent job managing his linebackers and each of their individual talents. Besides that, at least San Diego itself is a relatively gay-friendly city. The NFL might not be ready right now, but it’s going to have to deal Sam and players like him in the future.