(CNN Bleacher Report)( Feb. 9, 2014) — One of the last barriers of bigotry in all of professional sports will soon fall: Former Missouri star defensive end Michael Sam, an All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, has come out as gay.
Sam is expected to be a high-round draft pick in May, which would set a series of historic firsts in motion. He would be the first openly gay player drafted. Since most high-round picks make NFL rosters, he’d also likely be the first openly gay player in NFL history.
“I came to tell the world that I’m an openly, proud gay man,” he told Chris Connelly of ESPN’s Outside The Lines Sunday night.
“Michael has shown great courage in taking this step and not only do we support him, we are incredibly grateful. His decision to welcome us all into his world as he embarks upon a professional NFL career is an honorable one. This moment will resonate in a unique and important way for countless people, particularly LGBT youth,” said former Baltimore Raven and human rights activist Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been advising Sam and is a member of the Athlete Ally Board of Directors, a group that fights homophobia in sports.
The announcement sets up a number of tests for the league, for Sam and for his fellow players.
For one, there will be a dizzying scouting combine that starts Feb. 19 in Indianapolis, which Sam is expected to attend. No draft prospect in the history of the combine has been dissected or discussed like he will be.