According to the New York Times, Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri has come out as gay to his family, teammates and the world. If chosen in the upcoming NFL draft, he could become the first openly gay player in the league.
“I came to tell the world I’m an openly proud gay man,” he said in an interview with ESPN. “I know how big this is. It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be…I want to be a football player in the NFL.”
Sam has a good chance of making that dream happen. The college football star was an All-American and was named the top defensive player in the Southeastern conference, which is considered the nation’s best league. His teammates named him the team’s most valuable player.
The 24-year-old player has a close-knit football family. He shared what it was like to come out to his team, “I looked into their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads—like, finally, he came out,” Sam explained to the New York Times.
Projected to be chosen for the early round of the NFL draft in May, Sam wanted to be the one to control rumors about his sexuality.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Sam. “I just want to own my own truth.”
Although many speculate that coming out at this time in his career could be detrimental, the NFL released a statement showing their support: “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. 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.”
Sam, who graduated from the University of Missouri in December, says that his family and friends have accepted him and he hopes that society can rally around and support him, too.