By Ryan Shiner
Lineman Michael Sam (52) pressures Murray State quarterback Maikhail Miller in August 2013. Sam came out to his fellow players that month and came out publicly today.
Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam told the New York Times that he is gay, setting him up to possibly be the first openly gay player in the NFL.
Sam was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-SEC selection last season and is expected to go high in next month’s NFL Draft.
“I’m Michael Sam, I’m a football player, and I’m gay,” Sam said in a New York Times video released today.
“We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this, and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou,” coach Gary Pinkel said in a media release Sunday.
“Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.
“We’re pleased with the strides we’ve made over the years with our student-athletes, coaches and staff about respecting and celebrating our differences,” athletic director Mike Alden said in a statement.
Pinkel said in his statement that Sam came out to the rest of the Missouri football team early in the 2013 season.
“This past August, Michael was very direct with the team when he decided to let everyone know that he is gay,” Pinkel said in his statement. “We discussed how to deal with that from a public standpoint, and ultimately Michael decided that he didn’t want that to be the focal point of the season. He wanted to focus on football and not do anything to add pressure for him or for his teammates, and I think that’s a great example of the kind of person he is.”
In the video, Sam described how he felt when coming out to his teammates.
“I was kind of nervous, I was like ‘man I’m actually doing it.” Sam said in the New York Times video. He said that, “…everyone’s reaction was so awesome. These are my teammates, these are my brothers, I can play for these guys.”
Sam also talked about in the New York Times video why he decided to come out now.
“I’m coming out because I want to owe my truth. Two weeks ago at the Senior Bowl, I didn’t realize how many people actually knew about my sexual orientation. So I just wanted to owe my truth before anyone breaks a story about me.”
The NFL Combine begins Feb. 22, with defensive linemen working out on Feb. 24.