COLUMBIA -- Missouri defensive end Michael Sam revealed on Sunday, he is gay. Sam made the announcement in a report by ESPN's "Outside the Lines." The Associated Press SEC Defensive Player of the Year came out stating: "I am an openly, proud gay man." Sam told players and coaches at the University of Missouri in August.
"I understand how big this is," Sam told ESPN. "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. I didn't realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me. I want to own my truth. ... No one else should tell my story but me."
By sharing his story, Sam is the first openly gay NFL draft prospect. Sam is eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft and will travel to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in two weeks. If he is drafted or signs a contract, he would become the first openly gay player in the NFL.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel released this statement on Sam's announcement: "We're really happy for Michael that he's made the decision to announce this, and we're proud of him and how he represents Mizzou. Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand 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. If Michael doesn't have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don't think there's any way he has the type of season he put together. We talk all the time here in our program about how one of our core values is to respect the cultural differences of others, and this certainly applies. We view ourselves as one big family that has a very diverse collection of people from all walks of life, and if you're part of our family, we support you."
Mike Alden, Missouri Director of Athletics also released on statement on Sam's decision: "We are so proud of Michael for what he has accomplished at Mizzou academically, socially and competitively. This is a young man who earned his degree from MU, was a unanimous All-American on the football field and now he's being a leader in his personal life. He continues to display great character, courage and compassion. We are proud of him on every level...The University's theme is called ‘One Mizzou.' What that theme represents is that we are all family, we are all Tigers, and we should all respect and appreciate each other. We wish Michael all the best in all that he does."
Following Sam's announcement, the NFL released a statement of 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."
Michael Sam took to his real twitter account, confirmed by his agency Empire Athletics, to say thanks for the support.