Michael Sam, who made international headlines last spring as the first openly gay athlete to be drafted to an NFL team, has been signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, having passed his physical exam, team officials said today.
Sam, 23, who was signed to the St. Louis Rams as a seventh-round draft pick, but got cut from that team over the weekend, came out to the public at the end of his NCAA season at Mizzou earlier this year.
After being cut by the Rams, no NFL team stepped forward to pick the defensive lineman up–until yesterday. Sam flew to Dallas on a moment’s notice last night, for today’s physical, and Sam will wear jersey #46 for the team this season.
“Michael Sam is just too good–he was the [SEC Defensive player of the Year] at Mizzou, there’s just no way he can’t play at the NFL level,” said Super Bowl winning, former Baltimore Ravens QB Brandon Ayanbadejo, a longtime advocate of LGBT rights.
After coming out, Sam’s draft ranking plunged, leading many observers to wonder if the NFL was really ready for an openly gay player. “the fact that no team took the opportunity to sign Sam after the Rams cut him, speaks volumes,” OutSports editor Cyd Ziegler observed, but added, “The Cowboys make a great fit for him.”
Although Dallas is in the heart of a state seen by the LGBT community as among the most homophobic in the country, Cowboys officials “welcome [Sam] to our football family, as we do every other player who signs with us.”Head coach Jason Garrett said Sam would be an asset to the club. “We just want to give him a chance to come in and help our football team,” Garrett noted. “That’s where our attention is (football). What people say outside the organization is up to them.”
The Cowboys joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Respect At Work program, developed with the help of Wade Davis, an out former NFL player who now heads the You Can Play project.
The program is designed to create a “safe, welcoming environment” for gay athletes. Sam’s addition to the Cowboys’ practice squad also opens up opportunities for him to make the main team, whose defensive line has performed poorly in recent years.
Sam says the Cowboys were his favorite team while he was growing up in Texas.
article by Nathan James via gbmnews.com