Michael Sam: NFL prospect comes out as gay ahead of May's draft

Defensive lineman could become the first openly gay player if drafted into NFL franchise

Michael Sam could become the US National Football League's first openly gay player after revealing his sexuality on Sunday.

"I came to tell the world I'm an openly gay man," he told sports network ESPN's Outside the Lines. "If I work hard, if I make plays, that's all that should matter."

The 24-year old NFL draft prospect is expected to join a team in May - making him the first gay player to compete in any of the four major US professional sports league. His decision to come out ahead of draft season is also a huge gamble for career.

He added: "I probably may be the first but I won't be the last. And I think only good things will come from this."

The defensive lineman said he wanted to come out as an "openly, proud gay man" on his own terms and  doing so publicly in a coordinated interview with The New York Times and ESPN was a "weight off his chest".

Watch below: Michael Sam reveals he is "an openly gay man"

Texas-born Sam said he had already revealed his sexual preference to his former coach and teammates at the University of Missouri's Mizzou Tigers last summer. He said they supported him from "day one" and their reaction was "awesome".

Sam said he kept it a secret growing up because he was uncertain about his sexual orientation . He dated a fellow athlete - who was not a football player - at Missouri.

He added: "I didn't want to say, 'Hey, I might be gay. I might be bi.' I just didn't know ... I wanted to find who I was and make sure I knew what was comfortable. So I didn't tell anyone growing up."

In a statement, the NFL welcomed his decision to come out saying: "We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was equally supportive: "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."

NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders tweeted: ''Michael Sam isn't the first gay player in the NFL although he is the first to come out. Let's show him love like a family member. Truth.''

NBA veteran Jason Collins, who came out last year, tweeted his support for the player: "He is a great young man who has shown tremendous courage and leadership. I can't wait to cheer for whatever lucky team that drafts (him)."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?