The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

May 12, 2014

Column: Sam unafraid to rise or fall on his terms

We'll know what kind of football player the St. Louis Rams got with the 249th pick in the draft soon enough. We already know what kind of man they got in Michael Sam.

Anyone who watched him break into tears getting the phone call and expected only gratitude to spill out was in for a surprise. Because a few minutes later, breaking what amounted to a months-long silence, one of the first things Sam set out to do Saturday night was vaporize any lingering doubts that he wasn't macho enough for the NFL.

"Let me tell you something," he said, "if we were playing the Vikings right now I'll probably have three sacks the first game."

That was the message the league's first openly gay player sent to the Vikings and every other team that passed him over. He was less interested in why they did then when they were going to meet up next.

Asked whether he thought being frank about his sexuality hurt his chances of getting picked sooner, Sam began: "You know what, who knows? Who knows? Only the people who sit in the war room know."

He coolly repeated his promise to return the favor.

"They saw Michael Sam, day after day they scratched it off the board." That, Sam said, "was their loss."

He may not have the size and speed his competition did for a spot on an NFL roster, but he has the bravado. In a league of outsized personalities, Sam already looks like a good fit. He's not afraid to speak his mind in a business that pretends to hate "distractions," but doesn't hesitate to promote them when they're good for the bottom line.

Besides, there are dozens of players who could charitably be labeled "distractions" in the NFL right now, ranging from prima donnas to real criminals, and likely another dozen or so in the incoming draft class. If commissioner Roger Goodell and his owners are half as smart as they think they are, Sam is the kind of "distraction" they'll welcome. He'll be that rare player drawing attention for the right reason — at least most of the time.

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