Michael Sam is an NFL success story waiting to happen

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This past Sunday, Michael Sam, an All-American football star for the University of Missouri Tigers, announced that he is gay in interviews with The New York Times and ESPN.

Sam, the 2013 defensive player of the year in the South-Eastern Conference, had already come out to his Missouri teammates at the beginning of the 2013 season.

If drafted into the NFL this April, Sam will be the first active openly gay player in NFL history. Sam is the perfect person to make this leap.

He experienced many hardships growing up, three of his siblings died, and two brothers are currently in jail. Sam says because of the challenges he has already faced, he will be able to withstand any difficulties ahead because of his recent announcement.

There have been other NFL players to come out, such as David Kopay, a journeyman wide-receiver, most notably for the Washington Redskins, and Wade Davis, a defensive back who played for various NFL practice squads, but they came out after their NFL careers had ended.

Most NFL scouts put Sam’s draft status as somewhere in the middle to late rounds, third round is most often speculated.

This story is important to me because I have two cousins who are gay (one is a gay man, the other is a lesbian). I grew up with them. Went to the beach with them. They are good people and deserve to live their lives.

Because of them, I am a big supporter of gay rights. I know they deserve to be treated fairly. I believe it’s important to be inclusive in today’s society.

With Michael Sam’s decision to announce he is gay, society takes one step closer to reaching true equality. In the last decade, 12 states in the U.S. have legalized same-sex marriage. We are moving forward.

Will his coming out affect his draft position? It is tough to judge right now. Reaction from figures in the sports world has been overwhelmingly positive.

Many players currently in the league like Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Geoff Schwartz, and Seattle Seahawks linebacker and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith each tweeted words of encouragement to Sam.

Even First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated Sam on his decision. However, when Sports Illustrated and Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King spoke anonymously with some NFL General Managers and scouts about Sam, many of them said they would not draft him.

Not due to his sexuality itself, but because of the baggage or media attention it would bring.

Not every player has been open to the idea of having a gay teammate. Just last week New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma stated that he would be uncomfortable with the idea of having a gay teammate inside the locker room. There are also many players in the NFL that are deeply religious and would not likely support a gay teammate.

NBA player Jason Collins’ announcement back in April was huge news because it was the first time an active male professional athlete had announced he was gay.

Since then, unfortunately, Collins has not played in the NBA. Collins however, was a fringe player at best, receiving minimal playing time and averaging approximately a point and a rebound a game.

While Sam’s status in the NFL is up in the air at the moment, there is no doubt that he can play at a high level.

I look forward to the day when the top draft pick comes out as gay.

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