Michael Sam reacted to news that he’d been drafted with tears and a hug. (AP / ESPN)

Now the tough part begins for Michael Sam.

The Missouri defensive end who became the NFL’s first openly gay player when he was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the eighth-to-last pick in the NFL draft, now can do what he has wanted to do all along: focus on playing football and becoming the first openly gay player on a regular-season roster. His coach, Jeff Fisher, has pledged that “this will not be a distraction” when players take the field.

It won’t be easy. The situation in St. Louis may be comfortable but it will also be competitive. St. Louis is just two hours from Columbia, Mo., where Sam played college football and found acceptance from the community. He thrived at Mizzoui and was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year.

He’ll join an NFL team with a coach who’s adept at bringing out the best in players, but this is a coach with a team that’s also loaded with defensive players. This is not a roster that will be easy to crack, but Sam is adept at rushing the passer and he’ll go to work for Gregg Williams, a defensive coordinator who loves to pressure the quarterback from all angles. He’ll start working Monday.

“We drafted a good football player,” Fisher said. “I’m excited to get him on the practice field and get him going.”

For now, though, there’s time to savor the historic moment, which came with with fans in Radio City Music Hall chanting Sam’s name just before the Rams’ pick was announced.