This past Sunday, University of Missouri All-American defensive end, Michael Sam, made his sexual orientation public.
He openly admitted to being gay and now stands as the first-ever openly gay prospect for the NFL.
The 11th overall defensive end, according to cbssports.com, willingly acknowledged his orientation and shared it with his team last August. Just now, it has become a topic of discussion.
Sam had a difficult childhood and early life. The Division-I football player has struggled with family members in and out of jail, his younger sister’s passing and more. He feels that his announcement is not as big of a problem.
On the other hand, he had a very successful college career. Just this past season, he recorded 19 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, 11.5 sacks and was named Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC.
There are a few things Sam’s future teammates, coaches and himself need to do in order to make his transition into the NFL a smooth one.
What Future Teammates Will Need to Do
Locker room dynamics can create conflict. Often there is teasing and joking, but players need to know when to draw the line and to not isolate Sam. Whichever team he is drafted by, needs to accept him the way he is even if they do not necessarily agree with who he is.
What Prospective Coaches Need to Do
Focus on his play! If he is effective on the field, aggressive, hardworking and values sportsmanship for his fellow teammates and competitors, he should be considered for any team.
What Sam Needs to Do
He needs to go out onto the field and work hard. Sam must prove he deserves more respect when he enters the draft and combine coming up within the next few months. He will have to go in with confidence and poise. He needs people to respect the game he plays and to ultimately see his worth despite his sexual orientation. Also, if comments are to be made to him about being gay, he will need to shake off and ignore them. Tackles and blocks may break his bones, but words cannot hurt him.
How Will This Affect His future and Stance in the NFL Draft?
His projected 3rd or 4th round draft pick may be a stretch in my book. I see a lower appearance on the draft board because coaches will take his whole situation into consideration relating it to team chemistry and dynamics. Coaches will consider how this situation will fair in the locker room atmosphere. Unfortunately, in the not so distant past, fans saw the repercussions of acts of bullying and threats to the Miami Dolphins. These situations sadly do affect a team in terms of cohesion and if something were to come to light because of it, regrettably, the media would be the first to report it. It is sad that Sam, by being true to himself, will be affected by his remarks. Why must we defend ourselves to others? Shouldn’t we be free to live our lives without fear of being judged?
Nevertheless, Sam’s admittance to his sexual orientation will start a movement. His “coming-out” may be the catalyst for encouraging other gay players to reveal this as well.
Faith Krogulecki is a panelist on The Pact at Impact Sports.
Photo: Austin Pabian/Impact Sports