Michael Sam is kind of a big deal. Literally. He stands 6’3″, 262 lbs. He has a wing span of almost seven feet. The Hitchcock, Texas native was the South Eastern Conference Defensive Player of the year in 2013. After getting to know Sam over the course of the last three weeks his sexuality doesn’t come to mind — unless we are hanging at a gay bar in West Hollywood.
Sam just like any other professional athlete I have ever been around is ultra-competitive. While training with other NFL draft prospects in Thousand Oaks, preparing for the NFL scouting combine Feb 17th-25th, he mentioned how he wanted to continue to work hard and improve in all his various physical tests like the 225-pound bench press, 40-yard dash, and shuttle drill to name a few. His desire to be a successful NFL athlete is paramount at this stage in his life.
I asked Sam where he wanted to play. Sam said, “I don’t care what team I play for, I want to play for the team that drafts me and believes in me.” I learned how loyal and passionate Sam is for those who care for him. Whether it is a family member, a teammate, an employer, or a friend he is the type of individual that would go the extra mile for those that are in his corner.
While much of the media across the country continue to ask how Sam’s University of Missouri teammates were able to keep his secret for so long, it is a testament to Sam’s character. The guys keeping their word to their team leader was never in question.
The litmus test of how players will react to an openly gay player is a overwhelming success not only at Missouri, but Willamette University as well. Willamette is a small Division 3 school in Oregon. Both Conner Mertens and Michael Sam came out to their teammates and were welcomed with open arms into the locker room. Showers, locker room, off-field, on-field — there have been no issues for either player. After coming out in August of 2013, the ceiling on Sam’s talent, success, and happiness was raised exponentially. Sam attests that his 11½ sacks in 2013 were largely due to him coming and being able to express who he is as a open and honest person. (He only had 3½ sacks in 2012.)
Sam serves as a role model and a beacon of light. When Sam steps foot on the football field in September, he will be the first ever openly gay professional athlete to play in a game in one of the big three sports.
I truly believe Sam will be drafted right where he was slated to go before he came out — which is between rounds three and four. Sam will continue to impress executives, scouts, and coaches alike, not only on the field but off the field with his is character, intelligence, work ethic, and leadership skills. When Sam sits down with his suitors, he will sway them with all of his attributes. For equality and inclusion, Sam will have his Jackie Robinson moment in September. The only question that remains is the name that will be on the back of his jersey, not the name on the front.