Will Michael Sam, the All-American defensive end from the Cotton Bowl champion University of Missouri who publicly announced that he is gay over the weekend, get drafted by an NFL team at all? Even the question seems ridiculous. With his 11.5 sacks last season, the NFL Draft Scout site ranks him 11th of 260 defensive ends in the upcoming NFL draft and the 110th ranked draft prospect overall.
That means the 6’2″, 255-pound Michael Sam is not looked on as a potential superstar, but definitely as a player who can be an asset to an NFL team, especially one that needs help on the defensive side of the ball. NFL Draft Scout predicts he’ll be drafted in the third or fourth round of the NFL draft, which takes place May 8 until May 10.
Officially, the NFL is saying all the right things. In a statement yesterday, the league said, “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.”
Behind the scenes, however, a different story appears to be unfolding. Sports Illustrated football scribe Peter King said that he offered anonymity to NFL insiders who gave their honest reactions to the Michael Sam coming-out. The response he got was not as “welcoming” as the NFL’s official announcement.
“One GM told me he doesn’t think Sam will be drafted,” Kings said in a Sunday Twitter message. The reason? “We don’t think he’s a very good player,” the GM said. “The reality is he’s an overrated player in out (sic) estimation.”
That GM: “We don’t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’s an overrated player in out estimation.”
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 10, 2014
Other writers for Sports Illustrated found similar responses.
“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” one NFL player personnel assistant told SI, saying the presence of a gay man in the “man’s man game” of the NFL would “chemically imbalance an NFL locker room.”
“There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that,” said one NFL assistant coach.
But fortunately, not all the response was as negative. The fact is, Michael Sam revealed his sexual orientation to his Missouri teammates at the start of the 2013 season, but by Sam’s own account, their reaction was simply that it had taken him a long time to tell them what they already knew.
The team went on to vote Michael Sam their co-Most Valuable Player when the season was over. His announcement appeared to be a non-issue for the locker room at Missouri.
Quueried by CBS Sports, one NFL exec said, “He’s a good player. In the end, that’ll always take precedence.”
Another said, “I couldn’t care less — as long as he can ball.”
While former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards gave an interview yesterday in which he referred to Michael Sam’s sexual identity as “baggage,” former NFL star, now also a commentator, Deion Sanders called on NFL players to “show him love like a family member,” also noting that though Michael Sam would be the first publicly gay NFL player, there have been gay players in the NFL already.
Michael Sam isn’t the 1st gay player in the NFL although he is the 1st 2 come out.#realtalk Let’s show him love like a family member. Truth
— DeionSanders (@DeionSanders) February 10, 2014
Veteran NFL quarterback Chase Daniels, a former Missouri Tiger himself, also tweeted support for Michael Sam, as did Tampa Bay Buccanneers tight end Tom Crabtree.
Had multiple convos with @MikeSamFootball this year, amazed at his honesty & courage! Once a tiger, ALWAYS a Tiger!
— Chase Daniel (@ChaseDaniel) February 10, 2014
Good for Michael Sam. Takes courage for where he is in his career and where we are as a league. I applaud him.
— Tom Crabtree (@itsCrab) February 10, 2014