Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam hopes to be the NFL’s first openly gay player.
In multiple interviews published Sunday night, Sam — a USA TODAY All-America pick last season and potential mid-round NFL draft pick in May — revealed he is gay.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam told the New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”
Sam, who also spoke with ESPN, said he came out to his Missouri teammates before last season. But he didn’t go public until Sunday.
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said in a statement. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
A year ago, NFL teams were rightfully criticized for asking potential draft picks questions on the order of “Do you have a girlfriend?” This year, Sam will save them the trouble of having to ask.
Sam led the Southeastern Conference last season with 10½ sacks and 18 tackles for loss. The Associated Press named him SEC defensive player of the year.