There is no reason for me to know that the NFL draft starts tonight or even to be interested in the three-day spectacle that turns college gridiron stars into professional football players. But because Michael Sam is in the mix, I’m very interested.
Sam was a University of Missouri all-American defensive player. He was the Associated Press defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference. He was voted most valuable player by his teammates. And he made history in February by announcing he is gay. If Sam is drafted, he will be the first openly gay man to play professional football.
Sam didn’t do so well in February in the NFL scouting combine, where he underperformed in several key areas. The New York Times reported yesterday that things improved at a public workout a month later. Still, the paper also noted that Sam’s showing at the combine really hurt him. “Initially, teams were hoping he could be a linebacker and special-teams player,” former pro-football player Mike Mayock, now a draft analyst for NFL Network, told the Times. “But athletically, teams were disappointed by what they saw.”
Despite all that, folks expect Sam to be signed by a team. It’s just a matter of whether he will be snapped up in the final rounds of the draft or signed as a free agent after the draft is completed. For his part, Sam has stayed out of the spotlight and has been vocal about wanting to be “Michael Sam the football player, instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”
I hope a team will see fit to make that happen.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj