Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael
Sam, a solid NFL draft prospect, came out gay Sunday.
“I'm not afraid to tell the world who
I am. I'm Michael Sam. I'm a college graduate. I'm
African-American. And I'm gay,” Sam
told ESPN's Chris Connelly.
Sam said that he told his teammates and
coaches in August.
The 24-year-old Sam, the Associated
Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year, is eligible for the NFL
draft in May, leading to the possibility that Sam could become the
NFL's first openly gay player in its nearly 100 year history.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam
said. “It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's
kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to
be a football player in the NFL.”
Sam, who also spoke to The New York
Times, said that he decided to come out publicly because he was
“afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me.”
“I want to own my truth. … No one
else should tell my story but me.”
Missouri Tigers coach Gary Pinkel
congratulated Sam in a statement.
“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,” Pinkel said. “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.”
GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said
Sam was “rewriting the script for countless young athletes.”
“With acceptance of LGBT people
rising across our coasts – in our schools, churches and workplaces
– it's clear that America is ready for an openly gay football
star,” Ellis said in a statement.
Sam told Connelly that he knew he was
attracted to other men “from a young age.”
He added that “telling the world I'm
gay is nothing compared” to the adversity he's already faced.
“I endured so much in my past: seeing
my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my
oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to
meet her. My second oldest brother went missing in 1988, and me and
my little sister were the last ones to see him … my other two
brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade,
currently both in jail,” he said.
NFL senior vice president of
communications Greg Aiello said: “We admire Michael Sam's honesty
and courage. … We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael
Sam in 2014.”