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Michael Sam just wants to be known as a football player whose sexuality isn’t news

Saturday, February 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Sam needed no introduction.

He provided one anyway, subtly spelling out his desire to be known simply as a football player whose sexuality isn’t a national story.

Nam Y. Huh, APMissouri defensive end Michael Sam speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.

Nam Y. Huh, AP
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.

“Good afternoon. My name is Michael Sam. I play football for the University of Missouri,” he said to commence his first public appearance since announcing he’s gay.

Sam smiled and laughed often during a 12½-minute news conference at Lucas Oil Stadium, looking relaxed, jovial and confident while taking questions from the hundreds of reporters surrounding the podium.

Despite credentials that include the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year award, Sam is projected only as a mid-round pick in the draft in May. He’s 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, falling somewhere between a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme and an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.

Where he winds up, Sam said he doesn’t care.

“I’m a pass rusher. If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback. Whoever coaches or GMs, this league is a passing league. I’d like to believe in myself as a good pass rusher,” Sam said.

He’s not worried about being accepted, either, in light of the bullying scandal that emerged in Miami.

“If the Miami Dolphins drafted me I would be excited to be a part of that organization,” Sam said. “But I’m not afraid of going into that environment. I know how to handle myself. I know how to communicate with my teammates. I know how to communicate with the coaches and other staff I need to communicate with.”

Mostly, Sam wants to communicate this: “I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”

His former Missouri teammates certainly did.

“He’s happy with who he is. He doesn’t shy away from who he is. Mike Sam has got a lot of personality. He’s a great guy. He’s not going to be any different than who he is every day,” said wide receiver L’Damian Washington, one of several ex-Tigers stars here for the NFL’s annual scouting combine.

If Sam were to slip down the draft board, determining a bias against his orientation or a fear of the potential distraction would be near impossible. If teams pass on him, they’re likely unsure how his combination of size and speed fits with their defense.

“You only need one team. One team that believes in you. There’s 32 teams. You need one team,” Washington said.

Coaches and executives around the league were asked often this weekend for their thoughts on how Sam would fit, both on the field and in the locker room.

“He would be welcomed, no different than any other player we have,” New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said, adding: “The big thing we always talk about is respect in our locker room.”

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72 more reader comments:

  1. Mission failed

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:26pm
  2. It's not like it's his fault.It's society and ignorant peoples fault. If he didn't tell the media, and just dated people of the same sex without confirming his sexuality. Than people and the media would have a field day making up stories and spreading rumors. Not to mention that there would be lgbt people trying to pressure him to come out.

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:37pm
  3. Did I say it was his fault?

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:38pm
  4. No, but you said something ambiguously negative. What did you mean by "mission failed"?

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:49pm
  5. I get what Josh means. Maybe. Personally I haven't even thought of that story, the one of him coming out, in a while, and now I see that he's announcing that he doesn't want publicity surrounding his career in regards to his sexuality. It just SCREAMS "Look At Me! Remember Me? I Came Out As An NFL Hopeful, But I Don't Want Everyone To Remember That! Let Me Be Myself!" -_-

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:26pm
  6. Sorry love

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:27pm
  7. good luck in the hate filled NFL

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:27pm
  8. Give it about ten to fifteen years of players opening up, then the next generation won’t have to worry. It’s hard to be a trail-blazer, but he will endure hardships today so that those who come after him won’t have to. Eyes on the prize, my friend. You are very brave.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:28pm
  9. Agreed…if it could only be like that and all of us could just be people instead of the gays.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:28pm
  10. totally get it.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:28pm
  11. Good luck with that

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:29pm
  12. This is America, if you have any trait that makes you different, people automatically think of said of you as said trait first and a human being second!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:29pm
  13. It’s to be expected that it’s a national story. It should NOT be a national controversy!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:30pm
  14. So he should be! Why are other people so obsessed with other peoples relationships?

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:30pm
  15. What difference does it make that he likes dick over pussy? He’s a great football player any team should consider his presence on their team a plus! The fact he came out shows he has balls and a good strength of character as well!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:31pm
  16. But we all know it's probably not going to go down like that. Being the first black player probably led to the early death of Jackie Robinson.

    Replied on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:53am
  17. too late

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:33pm
  18. Nobody ever asks or cares what the str8 players do in the bedroom.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:33pm
  19. They do if they are women players. It's disgusting.

    Replied on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 6:01am
  20. Too late hero

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:33pm
  21. it’s really quite simple, give us what we want, stop beating and killing us, stop telling us we’re going to hell and we should just kill ourselves. you want us to stop shoving our “agenda” down your throat? then stop fighting it. you make it a bigger deal by fighting it. we’re not going anywhere, we’re not going to kill ourselves…..deal with it! i have no interest in “tolerance”…i’m ready to throw down!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:33pm
  22. I thought being different is what America was founded upon. The original settlers wanted to be different from England.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:34pm
  23. He just wants to play without controversy

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:35pm
  24. In a different time maybe..but for now – not gonna happen.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:35pm
  25. And when exactly will be a good time? If Jackie hadn't been the first black player when would the line have been crossed?

    Replied on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:00am
  26. We The White & Latino guys loves Michael Sam so much!. WHOO-WHOO!. We support Michael Sam!. Yes!. Michael Sam is so handsome!. :)

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:36pm
  27. I feel bad for Michael. Sure, he didn’t have to tell anyone he was gay. But if he was dating people of the same sex without confirming his sexuality . Than the media and people would have a field day, and spread as many rumors as they could about him. no matter what he did, people are now gonna relate him with being “that gay football player.” And it’s sad that his sexuality even needs to be an issue in the media. But hopefully, as gay marriage continues to be accepted. Maybe things like this won’t matter anymore.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:38pm
  28. That’s too late…

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:41pm
  29. Who really cares anymore…publicity stunt

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:48pm
  30. YES! THIS. I haven't even thought about him since he came out, and now I see this story. Pretty sure homophobes stopped caring and now he's rubbing it in their faces again by saying he doesn't want to be a national attention whore. I despise double standards.

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:22pm
  31. Homophobes haven't stopped caring, including coaches and NFL staff. "Rubbing it in their faces"? That's homophobic in and of itself.

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:43pm
  32. He’s safe from me: Not only don’t I care about a person’s sexuality, I wouldn’t know him in a uniform with a name-tag. I agree with what he’s saying though.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:50pm
  33. tbh I don’t even know why people give shits about who celebrities fuck. Why do people even give shits about celebrities’ personal lives? They’re supposed to be personal for a reason.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:55pm
  34. Why can people in the USA not accept a person who he is, where he is good in and what he wants to accomplish in life? We Dutch have a lesbian skater who won multiple medals in the Olympics. we do not care, we love her for what she accomplished. In Belgium they have a gay prime minister, they do not care. Why cannot people wake up and show respect for this young guy who wants to accomplish his dream in a sport he loves?

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:59pm
  35. Yeah, I doubt that is ever going to happen.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:04pm
  36. He’s right.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:10pm
  37. It’s a little late for that, eh bro? More power to you for owning who you are, but what did you expect? The media doesn’t exactly shy away from a good story. Not saying you should have remained invisible, but you could have done what Anderson Cooper did.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:19pm
  38. Anderson Cooper doesn't shower with the other reporters.

    Replied on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:56am
  39. It should not matter how tall you are or what color your hair is! Everyone is different…

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:19pm
  40. I can understand how feels, but he is now a trailblazer going down in history! Yay for him! :)

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:29pm
  41. And that is exactly as he should be known and treated. Glad he is leading the way.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:43pm
  42. SO proud of him!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:44pm
  43. JUST because he’s gay doesn’t me he’s out there trying to fondle everyone he showers next to in a locker room….people are so phobic in this country..rediculous

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:46pm
  44. And rightfully so!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:59pm
  45. Wouldn’t’ we all! I mean.. shouldn’t we be looking at people’s performance in their arts, sports and professions, the way they treat others, how they influence youth and inspire them with their effort, rather than trying to get into what they do in their beds?

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:02am
  46. I’m so happy your out about your self be happy who you are ;)

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:19am
  47. I am with you hope it goes well for you…

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:30am
  48. +

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:30am
  49. Aren’t we beyond all of this? I do not care if someone is gay…it has absolutely no effect on my feelings towards them…period!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:31am
  50. His sexuality should be a non issue….but unfortunately their are those out there who need to be in the spot light….what a sad state of affairs we are in….how far we (haven’t) come…

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:42am
  51. Good luck!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:33am
  52. good luck with that….people love to use labels..

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:35am
  53. Anderson Cooper doesn’t shower with the other reporters…because he’s a snob! Not because he’s gay.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:36am
  54. why does this ever MATTER ? I just don’t get it.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:40am
  55. YEP

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 2:01am
  56. ok……as sexy football player then……mmmmmmmmwa !

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 2:12am
  57. too late, buddy!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 2:13am
  58. Little late for that just sayin.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:38am
  59. Pretty simple!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 4:04am
  60. I wish this for you as well Mr. Sam! Your sexuality should not define the person you are dear!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 5:00am
  61. God bless him.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 8:28am
  62. You’re an idiot Mel. We just wanna love who we love. Life would suck If we were all the same. CELEBRATE DIVERSITY! Noh8!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 8:30am
  63. Si tu à lu cette phrase aime cette page !

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 8:41am
  64. I agree with Ayanda

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 10:43am
  65. I agree with him..

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:39pm
  66. Is it wrong of me that my first reaction is: “Um Nope Sorry! You cant exploit the GLBT Community and break down the closet door just to try to put it back on the hinges and slam it shut again because your career might suffer for a year or two because you challenged an entire national corporate organization to buck up and get ready. Grab a hold of your balls and squeeze because that is the only skin you have left in the game, no one wants a coward on their team regardless of their sexual orientation.”?

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:55pm
  67. he the bomb

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 2:26pm
  68. I would love to live in a world where one’s sexuality isn’t news, but as long as being gay isn’t considered “normal” and we are treated as second class citizens, it is news.

    I’m a high school teacher. My wife teaches at the same school. We’re both out at work to everyone…not for it to be news, but because we’re not ashamed of our relationship and refuse to hide it. We don’t make it “news” around school, but other people do…just because it’s not normal in their eyes.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:35pm
  69. Love.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:53pm
  70. as he is.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:56pm
  71. no actually let me change that, he should be known as an AMAZING football player…. ’cause he IS!

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:58pm
  72. That will come with time. The story will die out in week 3 or 4 next year, and everyone will refocus on football. Michael Sam was very smart to come out early, because any relevant question will be exhausted by the time the season rolls around. After he is the first openly gay player to make a tackle, recover a fumble, score a touchdown, and record a sack, the luster will wear off and he will be one of the guys. If you notice, nobody is talking about gays in the military anymore. This will be similar.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 4:39pm