Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is projected to be taken in this year's NFL Draft. Even if he goes undrafted and a team signs him, Sam could be the first publicly gay active player in the NFL.
Sam came out to a few media outlets today, including the New York Times, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated, so this was a planned announcement. The NFL prospect wants to make sure everyone's aware before the draft in May. CBS Sports currently ranks him as the ninth-best defensive end prospect, so he has a good chance of being drafted.
Sam came out to his Missouri teammates during a preseason team-building exercise at practice in August. Each player was asked, in addition to general information, to name one thing not everyone would know about him. Sam chose that opportunity to tell his team that he was gay. According to Sam, some of his teammates already knew and were just waiting for him to say it.
After coming out to the team, Sam felt more secure with himself. From the Times article:
"Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was," Mr. Sam said. "I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who's a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn't care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, 'Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?' I would have said yes."
No one asked.
"I guess they don't want to ask a 6-3, 260-pound defensive lineman if he was gay or not," Mr. Sam said. And he laughed.
Update: Outsports has a great look behind the scenes of how Sam's announcement was planned.