On Sunday, defensive end Michael Sam told the world the same thing he told his University of Missouri teammates before the season.
Sam publicly announced that he is homosexual, putting the 2013 SEC defensive player of the year in position to be the first openly gay player in the NFL after May’s draft. Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of SI.com spoke to eight NFL executives and coaches, none willing to put his or her name to their opinion of a man revealing part of his identity, on Sunday to find out how Sam’s choice to take that on will affect his position in the draft.
Because Sam had come out to his teammates already, one person Thamel and Evans spoke to said that 90 percent of teams already knew and had dropped Sam on their draft boards as a result. Others said that the NFL would be ready for an openly gay player “in the coming decade or two” and that being openly gay would “break a tie” with another player going before Sam. An NFL assistant said Sam’s move was not a smart one.
“You shouldn’t have to live your life in secrecy,” the assistant coach said, “but do you really want to be the top of the conversation for everything without ever having played a down in this league?”
Thamel and Evans also spoke to a scout who said Sam was overrated because he inflated his stats against inferior competition inside and outside the SEC and Peter King of TheMMQB.com spoke to a G.M. who thought Sam would go undrafted (and two who didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal), but the consensus seemed to be that the same player with a girlfriend or no public sign of sexual orientation would go higher than Sam will go in this year’s draft. The consensus also felt that a team with an established coach and general manager would be the best place for Sam to wind up as a rookie.
This is a first in the NFL, so no one can really know exactly how things play out from here. Sam will certainly draw a lot of attention throughout the draft process and into his NFL career and the idea that Sam will be a distraction will be mentioned quite often between now and May. Sam surely knew that when he started talking to reporters about his orientation, which should at least let teams know that he’s not the sort to shrink from a potentially difficult situation when they decide whether or not Sam is a fit for their team.