Michael Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams during the seventh round, No. 249, of the NFL draft, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL.
“We were very fortunate to have the supplemental choices,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said on NFL Network. “You use those for players you want to give an opportunity to, that you think that you want to draft. I haven’t said a whole lot to anybody over the last week or so but after doing the studies, good football player.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, Sam, a former University of Missouri defensive lineman and 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, announced that he was gay in February.
His revelation sparked an avalanche of contentious debates and varied reactions as observers wondered what Sam’s sexuality could mean for football.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who spoke with ESPN, The New York Times and a few other select outlets at the time. “I just want to own my truth.”
Coach Fisher says that he is unconcerned by the media fixation that follows Sam.
“I don’t have any concern whatsoever,” said Fisher. “We drafted a good football player. I’m excited to get him on the practice field. Yea, there’s going to be a little extra attention for a couple of days. We have a very mature team and certainly not going to let any kind of distraction affect this football team.”
Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. I’m using every once of this to achieve greatness!! pic.twitter.com/QESdOJVzsw
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) May 10, 2014
Read more about Sam’s football skills from USA Today:
Sam was a first-team USA TODAY All-America selection at Missouri last fall after leading the SEC with 11.5 sacks. He did that after having announced his sexuality to his teammates prior to his senior year. It clearly wasn’t an issue for the Tigers, who won the SEC East and the Cotton Bowl.
Sam’s sexuality was big news three months ago, but his football acumen seemed to be more of an issue for NFL teams in the lead up to the draft. He was considered to be small by NFL standards, just 6-foot-2 and 252, and had a disappointing showing at the NFL scouting combine in February. His 40-yard dash was slow, at 4.91 seconds, and he didn’t jump as high or lift as much as the top pass rushers in the class.
Sam’s measurables improved at his pro day in Columbia, Mo. in March, and Sam was widely considered to be a third-day pick, with projections that he would come off the board anywhere in the later rounds of the draft.
Sam, who allowed ESPN to film the historic moment, celebrated his selection by crying and jubilantly kissing his partner.