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Congratulations to Michael Sam!
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/11/14
Last updated on: 05/12/14
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Michael Sam.

Congratulations to Michael Sam, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams on May 10, 2014, thus making him likely to become the NFL's first openly gay active player. Co-captain of the University of Missouri Tigers, Sam led the team to a stellar 12-2 season in 2013, including a Cotton Bowl championship. He was a consensus All American and the Associated Press's defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference. His teammates voted him Missouri's most valuable player. Surprisingly, however, he was not chosen until the final round of the NFL's annual draft.

As Ken Belson writes in the New York Times, Sam was passed over repeatedly before being chosen on the third and final day of the draft. He was the 249th player selected. In addition, he was the first SEC defensive player of the year since 2006 not to be drafted in the first round.

It is unclear whether the lateness of the pick reflects prejudice on the part of NFL scouts, wariness that as the league's first openly gay player he might prove a distraction, or the fact that he did not perform well during the NFL's scouting combine in February, soon after he publicly came out as gay.

As Kelson reports, on the final day of the draft "tension at the otherwise quiet proceeding grew as the day wore on and other defensive ends were taken ahead of Sam."

Deion Sanders, a Hall of Fame player who is now a television commentator, wrote on Twitter, "Some team needs to Draft Michael Sam and be real the kid can play!"

Sage Rosenfels, a retired N.F.L. quarterback, tweeted, "So the best defensive player in the best college football conference hasn't been drafted in the first 6 rounds."

When Mike Kensil, the N.F.L.'s vice president for game operations, walked to the lectern at Radio City Music Hall, the site of the draft, and read Sam's name, cheers erupted among the several hundred fans remaining to observe the final round.

"Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis," Sam tweeted not long after he was picked.

Later, speaking to reporters, Sam said he had a chip on his shoulder because he was chosen so late in the draft.

"I knew I was going to get picked somewhere," he said. "Every team that passed me, I was thinking how I'm going to sack their quarterback."

He added, "If we were playing the Vikings right now, I'd probably have three sacks."

Brendon Ayanbadejo, a former Baltimore Raven and an outspoken defender of same-sex marriage, said in a statement: "Football plays an important and valuable role in cultivating leadership and respect. The St. Louis Rams just helped athletes everywhere feel more confident in their ability to be who they are and play the game they love."

Jason Collins, who is the first openly gay active player in the National Basketball Association, sent Sam a text message congratulating him, and told reporters, "I think it is great day for the N.F.L. and Michael and his family."

President Obama has also issued a statement congratulating Sam. "The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward in our Nation's journey," said a White House statement. "From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are."

Now that Sam has been drafted, the hard work will begin anew. There is no guarantee that he will make the Rams. He will have to battle other players for a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

In the video below, Sam and his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, surrounded by friends, receive the long-awaited news that he was drafted by the Rams.

Following the news, Sam and Cammisano, who was also an athlete at the University of Missouri, where he was a member of the swimming team, share cake and a kiss on national television.

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