MONTREAL — In the city where Jackie Robinson made the jump to the big leagues — and a country where gaysame-sexmarriage has been legal for a decade — Michael Sam has come to restart his football career.
The first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, Sam returned to practice with the Montreal Alouettes on Monday ready to resume his Canadian Football League career after a brief leave for undisclosed personal reasons.
Speaking for just a few minutes, Sam praised last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage and said he hoped to marry someday. Although Sam’s public coming-out and his efforts to make the NFL have been cited as a catalyst for Americans’ abrupt turnaround on gay rights, he deflected credit to those who have worked on the issue for years.
“I don’t think I did anything. … I’m just happy that I can get married and it would be legal,” he said, adding that he was focusing on football for now. “It was a historical day and I’m very proud and very happy to be an American right now.”
The 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri, Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh and final round of the 2014 NFL draft. He was cut by St. Louis and signed by Dallas to the practice squad, but he couldn’t make the Cowboys’ roster.
Sam agreed to a two-year deal with the Alouettes last month but left training camp on June 12, citing personal reasons. He missed the season opener on Thursday night but returned over the weekend and was back on the practice field at Montreal’s Parc Hebert on Monday.
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“He worked some things out that he needed to settle and he came back to us a much more dedicated athlete than he was before. He wants to prove that he can play on a high level.”
Neither Sam nor his coaches and teammates would comment on the personal matters that took Sam away from the team. Sam said there was never any doubt that he would return.
“I was always coming back,” he said. “I had to deal with personal matters when I was home. That’s all taken care of, so now I’m back.”