He is the defensive player of the year in arguably college football's best conference and now he wants everyone to know, he's gay. Michael Sam is making the groundbreaking announcement ahead of the NFL draft, a draft in which he's expected to be selected. If taken, he will become the first openly gay NFL player.
A standout, 260-pound defensive end for Missouri, Michael Sam made a statement this year for the Tigers racking up 11.5 sacks. Now he's making even more headlines as an openly gay man hoping to get drafted by an NFL franchise.
"I'm not afraid of who I am. I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am," Sam told ESPN.
Neil Graff is a former NFL quarterback who now lives in Sioux Falls. He says an announcement like this isn't surprising; it was inevitable. However, he's not sure how it will play out when Sam is selected.
"There's going to be some uncomfortable-ness in the locker room. That's just a fact of life. It's not whether it's right or wrong. It will be an issue in the NFL locker rooms," Graff said.
While adding Sam to a roster could bring change to that team's locker room culture, the added attention could also be a big distraction.
"By all means, this will be a media circus. This is kind of a first. There have been NFL players who have announced they were gay after their playing days were over. I don't recall one announcing the fact that they were openly gay prior to entering the NFL. This will be a historic moment and it will be a media circus," Graff said.
Many current and former players have taken to social media in support of Sam, calling his actions honest and brave, but others have wondered how it will work.
"It's going to be interesting to see what NFL team will want to venture into this area where there could be some problems in the locker room and I suspect some NFL teams will want to stay away from that," Graff said.
That will be a big story when the draft begins in May.
The NFL released a statement shortly after Sam's announcement saying, "We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."