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Long on guts, all Sam needs is a fair shot

What Is The Best Fit For Michael Sam?


By JIM LITKE
AP Sports Columnist

Among the hundreds of players eligible for this year's NFL draft, one has come out and announced he's gay.

For all the dramas that will grab center stage each time a big name moves up or down the board, the fate of Michael Sam - and whether he gets a real shot to play at the next level - could wind up trumping them all.

More than a few players and front-office execs have vowed they'd play alongside anyone if he made them a better team. This could be the weekend that claim is put to the test.

Sam is under-sized (6-foot-2, 252 pounds) by NFL standards, so the skills that won him acclaim as one of the top defenders in the top-tier Southeastern Conference won't carry as much weight as it otherwise might with the league's tough-to-impress scouts. The loyalty and respect he garnered among his Missouri teammates, who dutifully kept Sam's secret throughout last season, will count as a character reference but not much more.

Because while Sam was a factor on just about every down as a defensive end in college, predicting how he'll adapt to a role in the pros as a part-time, pass-rushing linebacker and special-teams player is a roll of the dice. What's certain, on the other hand, is that he'll have a media circus in tow wherever he lands.

"I would not hesitate to use a draft pick on him," said Bill Polian, a longtime NFL executive with Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis who is currently working as an ESPN analyst. "He's a hard-nosed football player and there's always room for one of those."

Yet even while saying he thinks Sam's problem won't be with potential teammates - "players won't have any issues with (his sexual orientation) at all" - Polian suggested that by coming out, Sam may have left some front offices skittish.

"They may not see the distraction as worthwhile," he added.

At least one current general manager believes otherwise.

"I certainly think there is an element of courage that goes along with that," said Trent Baalke of the San Francisco 49ers, whose team interviewed Sam during his pro day workout at Missouri. "That's an issue that is continually being addressed, not only in the National Football League but in society. It needs to be addressed and I'm glad that the NFL is taking an active role from the commissioner on down."

Roger Goodell greeted Sam's announcement in February by saying, "Good for him. He's proud of who he is and had the courage to say it. Now he wants to play football.

"We truly believe in diversity," the commissioner added, "and this is an opportunity to demonstrate it."

But Sam's agents acknowledge they're as much in the dark about his draft prospects as everyone else. Well aware that it only takes one franchise or owner determined to make a point or drum up lots of free publicity (think Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones) - they've been told he could go anywhere from the end of the first round to being left off the board altogether.

The consensus among scouting services is that he'll be selected on the final day of the draft, if at all, somewhere between the fourth and sixth of the seven rounds. A few commenters on message boards have suggested it would be fitting if Sam was taken with the last pick in the last round, a dubious distinction known as "Mr. Irrelevant."

For his part, Sam has stayed out of the public eye, turning down requests for interviews since addressing his sexuality at the scouting combine with both smarts and poise. More to the point, he's overcome long odds before.

Raised in a one-parent household, Sam lived in a car briefly as a youngster and with classmates several times during his high school career. He lost one brother to gun violence and two others are in prison. Just getting to the football field some days took the kind of guts that even the toughest NFL players have to admire.

All he's asking for is the chance to display that toughness one more time.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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thecoehouse May 08 2014 at 12:28 PM

Wouldn't any guy love to shower with a bunch of naked chicks ? Same thing with Sam.....he's a chick showering with a bunch of guys.Tell me he won't be checking out everybody's dog. Drop your soap???Better leave it bro'

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3 replies
floatgod May 08 2014 at 10:05 AM

What difference dfoes it make if he is Gay? As long as he can run after having sex!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
secchampsmsu May 08 2014 at 10:44 AM

Great move by this guy, now if he doesn't get drafted he can blame it on the nfl teams for being intolerant and closed minded. He just guaranteed himself an excuse if he doesn't get drafted.

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leslie May 08 2014 at 11:22 AM

He's obviously had a lot of practice as a receiver, and some said he was a good tight end

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delraythumper May 08 2014 at 12:21 PM

The man can play football. BTW, all the 7th graders making their homophobic comments here, it's great you little fellas came out of your closets long enough to respond on this site. I bet the other little boys are still giggling with you.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
D-ROC May 08 2014 at 12:23 PM

Talent always outweighs sexual problems, this guy is average at best and a bit unstable his NFL career will probably be a short one so hopefully he got his education.

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chuckhalper May 08 2014 at 4:14 PM

Hey AOL/HP---for the real equality you constantly pontificate about, maybe being gay need not be a news item anymore. If this fellow is a good player, he should get signed--if not, he should not. That's all there is--

Flag Reply +1 rate up
end3651 May 08 2014 at 1:24 PM

"Among the hundreds of players eligible for this year's NFL draft, one has come out and announced he's gay."

And all the others came out and announced they are straight.

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2 replies
jdsept end3651 May 08 2014 at 3:07 PM

Who said the others announced they were straight? NOBODY Why? Because, they didn't announce they were straight. I think we can safely assume others not announcing just might be gay by the probability numbers. But he did announce he was gay. Sometimes the facts confuse people like YOU

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miriamisrael1 end3651 May 08 2014 at 3:36 PM

we don't need to announce that we are straight, they need to because of the way they are treated, and they want acceptance. Gay people don't want to be made to feel any different than you or I (human beings)

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1 reply
natalie miriamisrael1 May 08 2014 at 4:28 PM

TRUE, BUT CONSTANTLY "COMING OUT" AND ANNOUNCING THEY ARE GAY, BRINGS TROUBLE ON THEM AS WE HAVE SEEN TIME AFTER TIME.. WE CAN'T FORCE PEOPLE TO ACCEPT IT, BUT THE GAYS CAN QUIT DECLARING IT HIGH AND LOW, TO AVOID THE TROUBLE THEY BRING ON THEMSELVES. TO ME IT'S JUST ASKING FOR TROUBLE, WHY BRING THAT ON THEMSELVES????????

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tizzmine May 08 2014 at 1:27 PM

bullsh--- he was wanting an EXTRA EDGE to be noticed.....garbage.....PERVERT
KEEP IT TO YOURSELF SAM.......

Flag Reply +1 rate up
4 replies
americanthndr46 May 08 2014 at 1:39 PM

WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!!......HE'S TRYING TO BE PICKED CAUSE HE'S GAY AND NOBODY SHOULD BE PICKED JUST BECAUSE OF THAT! HE AND EVERYONE ELSE SHOULD BE CHOSEN BECAUSE OF THEIR BALL PLAYING SKILLS AND NOTHING ELSE!!

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2 replies
jdsept americanthndr46 May 08 2014 at 3:04 PM

He said he should be picked because he is gay? Where? The guy who was defensive player of the year in the SEC is going to be picked whether he is gay or not.

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2 replies
americanthndr46 jdsept May 08 2014 at 3:42 PM

NICE TRY....THEN WHAT DOES IT MATTER IF HE IS GAY OR NOT? WHY DO THEY EVEN MENTION IT? THATS THE WHOLE POINT!! WHO CARES? YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY AS BLIND AS A BAT!!

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natalie jdsept May 08 2014 at 4:22 PM

HE DIDN'T SAY THAT, THAT EGGHEAD AMERICANTHNDR SAID THAT..... HE'S JUST ANOTHER HATER.... JDSEPT I APPRECIATE YOUR COMMON SENSE...

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natalie americanthndr46 May 08 2014 at 4:21 PM

YES HE SHOULD BE PICKED BASED ON HIS SKILLS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. BUT "YOU" HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HIS MOTIVES ARE AT ALL, AND SHAME ON YOU FOR PRESUMING SO.

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