The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

February 10, 2014

Sam could become NFL's 1st openly gay player

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Tolerance is about to be tested in the National Football League.

And Michael Sam hopes his ability is all that matters, not his sexual orientation.

Missouri's All-America defensive end came out to the entire country Sunday night and could become the first openly gay player in America's most popular sport.

"I just want to go to the team who drafts me," Sam told ESPN in an interview that aired Sunday, "because that team knows about me, knows that I'm gay, and also knows that I work hard. That's the team I want to go to."

Nobody has ever done this before.

In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports, Sam said publicly for the first time that he was gay. He said he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.

Sam will participate in the NFL combine later this month in Indianapolis and is projected to be a mid-round draft pick in May.

"Hopefully it will be the same like my locker room," he told ESPN. "It's a workplace. If you've ever been in a Division I or pro locker room, it's a business place. You want to act professional."

Sam received much public support Sunday night from people throughout the world of sports.

"I can't wait to cheer for whatever lucky team that drafts @MikeSamFootball. Personally I hope he goes to my favorite team. The @Colts" tweeted Jason Collins, the pro basketball player who said publicly last season that he is gay.

There also were words of caution.

Offensive lineman Frank Garcia, who played nine seasons (1995-2003) in the NFL with the Panthers, Rams and Cardinals, said Sam could face "huge challenges" in the league.

Garcia was teammates and good friends with defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo, who announced he was gay on HBO's Real Sports in 2002 — three years after he left the NFL.

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