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)."
Latest in Sport
WrestleMania 31: What time does it start? Full match card and preview ahead of WWE event
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
Gareth Bale to Chelsea: Real Madrid to be 'tempted by £75m offer' this summer
Manchester United transfer news: Chris Smalling and Phil Jones face uncertain future with contract renewal talks on hold
Malaysia Grand Prix 2015 LIVE: Sebastian Vettel wins in just his second race with Ferrari with Lewis Hamilton second and Nico Rosberg third
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 3 Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew