Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, is set to enter the 2014 NFL Draft under unique circumstances. Sam will enter the NFL as the league's first openly gay player.
"I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out," Sam said Sunday.
This was the first time Sam has spoken publicly about his sexual orientation, and he's about to put the NFL on a different axis.
In other words, he will be drafted by someone and he will become the first openly gay player in the NFL, barring any other revelations between now and the time he's drafted and signs his contract.
Sam told the Times he believed that rumors about his sexual orientation were circulating and decided to get ahead of the press.
"I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it," Sam said. "I just want to own my truth."
Sam's world is about to get pretty crowded. This is the kind of issue that transcends the sport itself; it's a "CNN issue" which will mean extended coverage by the national media as they watch to see how he's accepted in the world of the NFL.
"I'm not naïve," Sam said. "I know this is a huge deal and I know how important this is. But my role as of right now is to train for the combine and play in the NFL."
All he can do, really, is focus on getting ready for the combine. It's going to be a zoo there but the NFL has expressed support for the former Missouri player.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
Sam, for his part is taking almost a perfect approach to the situation, remaining "comfortable" in his own skin.
"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," he said. "I'm comfortable in my skin." Late Sunday Sam took to Twitter to thank people for their positive reactions
Also Sunday, Sam's former school, Missouri posted the following message of support on Twitter.
For more Twitter reactions to Sam's announcement, check out our story over here.