Michael Sam, a standout football player at the University of Missouri, said in interviews Sunday that he is gay.
As an All-American defensive lineman and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Sam is expected to be selected in May’s NFL draft. If he were to be drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.
In interviews with the New York Times, ESPN and OutSports, Sam said he told the University of Missouri football team that he was gay during a preseason team-building exercise. Head coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement Sunday that the football program supported Sam and his decision to announce that he is gay.
“He’s taught a lot of people here firsthand 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,” Pinkel said.
A leader on the defense, Sam helped the Missouri team to one of its best seasons last year and many pundits expect him to be drafted early in the draft. Sam graduated from the University of Missouri in December.