The phone rang and, when Michael Sam answered it, Jeff Fisher was on the other end with news that changed Sam’s life — and the NFL.
Fisher, the St. Louis Rams’ coach, was calling to tell Sam that he was being taken with the 249th pick in the NFL draft, becoming the league’s first openly gay player. How did Fisher break that news?
“I just said, ‘Michael, hi. This is Jeff Fisher. You are a Ram. The wait is now finally over. Congratulations. We think you can come help us win,'” Fisher told ESPN. “I don’t know how much he heard of that.”
Sam broke down and sobbed midway through the conversation and Fisher said he’d be calling him back.
“You used the word ‘historic,’ Suzy,” he told Suzy Kolber. “I was just told here — reminded — that in 1946 the Rams were the first NFL team to sign an African-American player, Kenny Washington, and that was a year before Jackie Robinson signed his first baseball contract. In a world of diversity we live in now, I’m honored to be a part of this and I’m excited about his opportunity to help this football team win.”
Although a number of people thought the Rams were the best team for Sam, who played at the University of Missouri, Fisher didn’t see it that way. He said he anticipated no problems with other players, but added that he would address it with players this week.
“This is not a distraction, trust me,” Fisher said in a press conference. “This is not a distraction.”
Fisher was mindful of his spot in the historical moment. “I’m privileged to be a part of it.”