Michael Sam became the first openly gay football player to be drafted by a National Football League team Saturday when the St. Louis Rams picked him in the seventh round of the league’s draft.
Sam was the 249th pick out of 256 players total, the Associated Press reports. A defensive end, Sam won the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award while playing for the University of Missouri last year.
ESPN cameras that were with Sam recorded him breaking down in tears and kissing his boyfriend after getting the draft call from Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Sam also got a congratulatory message from President Barack Obama in the form of a White House statement issued Saturday.
“The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey,” the statement read. “From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.”
Sam, who has long been considered destined for the pros, came out as gay in interviews earlier this year, setting himself up as the most likely candidate to become the NFL’s first openly gay player. If and when Sam makes his first appearance on the NFL gridiron as a Ram, he’ll break a barrier but also follow in others’ very recent footsteps: Jason Collins, a 35-year-old National Basketball League star, came out as gay after last year’s NBA season before signing and playing with the Brooklyn Nets, becoming the first openly gay athlete to play in an NBA game. Collins said Saturday that Sam getting drafted made it a “great day for the NFL.”
“It takes more and more people just to come forward and show we’re normal people and we’re just trying to make plays to help our respective teams win,” Collins said, the New York Daily News reports.