Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Stepping Away From Football, Cites Mental Health Concerns

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL, has revealed that he will be stepping away from football due to his current mental health issues.

Michael Sam’s announcement comes just a week after the defensive end made his debut with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. Apparently, Sam has been struggling with some emotional issues and decided he needed to take some time away from the game.

Sam made his announcement on Twitter on Friday, August 14 to his 207,000 followers.

“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health. Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time,” he wrote. “I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon. Thank you all for your understanding and support.”

Michael Sam, 25, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams last year, making him the first openly gay football player to be drafted by a NFL team, Reuters reported, via Yahoo News. The Rams later waived him during the final round of cuts. Michael was then picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, but they released him from their practice squad in October 2014.

Sam signed a two-year deal with the Alouettes in May, making him also the first openly gay player in the Canadian Football League. The Alouettes suspended Sam in June after he left the team’s training camp for unexplained personal reasons, but he returned after a two week absence.

Before graduating in December 2013, Michael Sam was the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at the University of Missouri. He announced his sexuality the following February, prior to the 2014 NFL drafts.

[Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images]