Michael Sam doubled up as Defensive End and Offensive Tackle when playing in High School, and while he attended Hitchcock in Texas he was All-District four years running for his play on defence. He went on to receive several scholarship offers, but yearned to play for Texas A&M.
In the end he accepted an offer from the University of Missouri. Playing in the Big 12 Conference he steadily made a name for himself with big play capability and tough tackling. In 2012 Mizzou was transferred into the Southeastern Conference and it was here where he truly made his mark.
His senior year in 2013 was stellar. Named Defensive player of the Week in consecutive weeks, he led the conference in tackles for a loss, and sacks. This ultimately led him to be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
A unanimous selection for All-American, he graduated and played in the 2014 Senior Bowl at Outside Linebacker, a position that he struggled to adapt to. The position move was after many said that he was undersized to play Defensive End in the National Football League.
At the annual NFL Combine he was measured at 6ft 2in, and 261lbs., running the 40 yard dash in 4.92 seconds, a 25.5in vertical leap, and a broad jump of 9ft 6in. This was a somewhat disappointing display and led to his early projection of going in the third or fourth rounds, slipping down to the later rounds if selected at all.
On Saturday May 10th the St.Louis Rams were on the clock with the 249th overall pick in the seventh round. With that pick they selected Michael Sam and another young promising football player had his prayers answered.
Michael Sam is gay.
Is this a problem? No of course not.
His selection was the profit of a well rounded football player whose professional career has only just started. The mere fact he has been selected is just the beginning of his journey. If he feels hard done by with the lowness of his selection he will have to battle it out in training camp to prove his doubters wrong.
He may of course feel that the lateness of his pick was due to his “coming out” in August 2013, and that teams avoided him due to the uncommonness of having an openly gay man in their locker room. The flip side of this is that some would say he made his announcement to benefit him in some way, and maybe a team would pick him for the warm handshake they would receive for making such a bold choice.
Let’s get real here for a moment. Football is a business first and foremost. There is nothing to be gained by making a good public relations selection in the draft if it then goes on to become a bust. Draft picks are like an untouched gold mine. You don’t get many gems, so why risk wasting one just because it puts you in a good light for a few months.
In the weeks building up to the draft Baltimore, Atlanta, New England and Indianapolis were all said to be keen on Sam depending on how the boards looked in the latter rounds. Those teams always manage to excavate a diamond from the rough so Sam wasn’t just going to be someone’s PR exercise in those buildings.
It is a newsworthy story of course, and you may well berate me for writing this about what i feel is a non-issue and contradicting myself in adding to the circus. I’m not denying that a significant breakthrough has been made and Sam’s announcement may well help others in the future, that is if he becomes a success for his play on the field and not by the media scrum it has so far provided.
The cameras were there when he received the call from the Rams, and he reacted like all other picks have by hugging their closest to them and thanking them for their support and help through their college careers. The subsequent repeat of his moment in the spotlight for the days after is not the correct way of promoting Michael Sam the football player. Judge him by his game film like the Rams have, dissect the tape of how he bullrushed his way to nearly a dozen sacks in his excellent senior year.
I congratulate all the 256 selections in this year’s draft as much as I do Michael Sam. Their hard work for the past three or four years has paid off. We will of course see more headlines about Sam in the near future, let’s just hope it’s for football reasons.
Sam’s replica jersey is the second highest selling of all players coming out of the draft, behind only a certain quarterback whose stock also dramatically slipped in the draft, but that’s an entirely different story…