Sam I Am
When Missouri’s Michael Sam announced that he is openly gay, it was a landmark moment for the NFL. There has never been any player who has come out before the draft process nor has any player come out publically during his playing career. Michael Sam has exhibited a great deal of courage and honesty. It is especially noteworthy, because Sam is in the process of living out his dream of playing in the NFL. Currently projected in the middle to late rounds, his draft stock will likely be the topic of a great deal of debate leading up to the NFL Draft.
This revelation could certainly shift the focus away from Sam’s ability to rush the passer, and turn his personal life into a larger story than his ability to play football. I think this would be a disservice to the accomplishments Sam has made in his athletic career thus far. I still expect Sam to be drafted somewhere between the 4th and 6th rounds. The NFL combine could bolster his ratings if he were to have a sensational week.
In a novel situation like this one, I find that we will look for comparisons of players in years past to gain foresight into how the Sam draft process will end up.
I think that there is an argument that could be made to justify my prediction that Sam will fall around his draft predictions in the same way that Tim Tebow did. Sam is certainly more novel than Tebow, but the media circus could be the comparable. Tebow was very outspoken about his religious beliefs. Tebow starred in a pro-life commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and had the potential to be a media headache for whichever team drafted him. However, he was drafted towards the end of the 1st round. This is close to where he was projected to land, even Tebow’s agent Jimmy Sexton was aware of where his client would roughly fall in the draft order.
( If you would like further confirmation of this watch Tim Tebow : Everything In Between http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR4V-0DfaGc )
It is also likely that Sam’s coaches, teammates, and friends knew that he was gay before he had come out to them and to the public. Sam stated that he came out to his team last August. The team had a fantastic season and Gary PInkel has commented on how his team really came together in their 2nd season in the SEC.
Sam is going to be asked about this again during the NFL combine’s rigorous interview process. If GM’s are willing to ask Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute, Sam is going to field difficult questions concerning the impact that his personal life might have on the locker room. However, Sam will not be asked about specifics of his marital status or relationship status as that is against the policies the NFL has put in place.
Michael Sam is going to be asked just as many questions about his family life. He has brothers in prison and lost another brother to violence. Sam’s older sister died when she was only an infant. Michael Sam and his younger sister are two of the last people to see his 2nd eldest brother before he went missing in 1998. He is assumed to be dead. Sam has made it clear that these are the tragedies and hardships of his life, not telling scouts that he is gay.
Most NFL teams are finished with their preliminary draft boards but this will alter Sam’s stock in some way. It is difficult to know how it will be altered. If a team is sold on Sam as a player they will then they’ll have to decide if Sam is too big a distraction for their organization. A team will have to answer questions about how well Sam will fit into their locker room culture. The latter of the two decisions is one that they must make concerning every potential selection. Sam would do well to be drafted by a progressive coach with a roster that has an established locker room. A coach like Pete Carroll with a roster full of players from schools like Stanford and UCLA would make an ideal spot for Sam. The New England Patriots locker room would also be a strong fit because of the way it shields players from non-football related issues.
In the end, I believe that Sam will be drafted based upon his football talents and his accomplishments on the field. Sam has said that he hopes to be evaluated by his work ethic and his ability on the field and not his personal life. The NFL is a business and its product is football. The NFL is a league comprised of football players who possess the talent and determination necessary to wear the NFL shield on their jerseys. NFL players have attended universities in which there were gay and lesbian organizations on those campuses. The fact that Missouri’s locker room was not divided by the issue should mean that it will be of no consequence to the NFL locker rooms. These are men who have college degrees and their job is football. They are paid to perform and win. In May, Michael Sam will become one of those players because of what he has accomplished through perseverance and the determination that he would strive to make the most of his talents.