By Tank Spencer
Missouri graduate and NFL prospect Michael Sam is gay and the place where sports and politics combine is aflame. Is this the Jackie Robinson moment the gay community has been waiting for? If drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL. Apparently he came out to his teammates at Mizzou before this season and he says they were supportive.
After coming out to the team, he had the best season of his career and became the SEC’s defensive player of the year. Could that alone be the reason he played so well? I’ll buy it. There is something to be said to having to perform with a cloud over your head. Secrets have a way of affecting everyone’s job/life performance.
Despite all of the accolades, Sam was not projected as a high round draft pick from the start. The feeling seems to be his potential has peaked and that when facing tougher competition, he seemed to disappear. Most of his 11.5 sacks this past season were against weak opponents.
There is no doubt Sam is a NFL-caliber player and the other thing there is no doubt about… his announcement will hurt his draft stock. It’s not about homophobia, it’s all about common sense. When the 4th round comes around and a GM looks at similarly talented defensive ends, they will think twice or thrice about taking Sam. In the later rounds you want to grab a solid guy that can make a difference, but do it quietly. Now every move Sam makes will be loud.
Sam’s presence in the locker room will draw the media attention like no other player has done. Not even the media worship of Tim Tebow will rival this story. TMZ will probably have a Michael Sam reporter on staff by the time the draft rolls around to shadow his every move and interaction with teammates and coaches.
I expect Sam to be drafted, but I doubt he’ll go before the 5th round. Sam has an amazing story and appears at the start to be THE face of homosexual male athletes and breaking down the misconceptions and fears that exist about accepting them into the sports culture.