Michael Sam, 24, came out to his Mizzou Tigers teammates and coaches last summer – but only made his sexuality public in an interview with ESPN’s ‘Outside The Lines’ this past Sunday, admitting “I am an openly, proud gay man.”
Sam is eligible for the National Football League draft in May. If selected, Sam could become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.
“I understand how big this is,” he told ESPN. “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 told ESPN that he decided to go public because he wanted to come out on his own terms, instead of being outed by somebody else.
“I didn’t realise how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me,” he said. “I want to own my truth. … No one else should tell my story but me.”
Sam explained that when he came out to his coaches, they already had a feeling that he was gay and were very supportive. He said, “I was kind of scared, even though they already knew. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from day one. I couldn’t have better teammates. … I’m telling you what: I wouldn’t have the strength to do this today if I didn’t know how much support they’d given me this past semester.”
Mizzou Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said 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.
“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.”
Sam was picked as Missouri’s most valuable player last year, as well as being named the Southeastern Conference’s defensive player of the year.
The University of Missouri tweeted this message of support following his announcement:
We support Tigers of all stripes at Mizzou. Proud of you @MikeSamFootball! #OneMizzou http://t.co/ueLCOJ4RFF pic.twitter.com/DvJ2vTIbgU
— Mizzou (@Mizzou) February 10, 2014
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