At yesterday’s introductory press conference for their rookie draft class, St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead said the following: “Whatever is out of the realm of what a seventh-round pick does we made it clear: Don’t do it.” Apparently the most famous seventh-round draft pick in the history of the NFL Draft didn’t heed that advice.
Defensive end Michael Sam, who prior to the NFL Scouting Combine became the first NFL draft prospect to announce that he is gay, announced today that he would be part of a documentary series for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) for his journey from draft pick to potential NFL player. The decision to be part of a reality TV show, not his public coming out announcement, will be the main reason why Sam’s NFL journey could end before it even starts.
As much as I want Sam to succeed in the NFL and shred all doubts about homosexuality in sports, his focus right now should be just on football (like he has previously said on numerous occasions) and not the TV cameras. Sam’s fight for a roster spot not only will determine his immediate NFL future, but as a pioneer for players who want to follow a path. His journey will either inspire others to follow his lead or could potentially dissuade them entirely.
Sam already has a tough enough hill to climb, and that’s not just because he was a seventh-round draft pick. Sam is fighting for a roster spot on a very loaded Rams’ defensive line that already features four first-round picks in Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers as well as quality veteran reserves in Kendall Langford and William Hayes.
The former Missouri defensive end said in a statement: “Like every player out there working to make a team right now, my focus is on playing football to the very best of my ability. I am determined. And if seeing my story helps somebody else accept who they are and to go for their dreams too, that’s great.”
Sam, as we now know, is not like every player, and it seems that his focus is far beyond football. Again, I am rooting for and hoping that he gets a chance to succeed in the NFL with either the Rams or any other NFL team, but a seventh-round pick having his own reality show definitely won’t help his cause.