Sam’s interview with the magazine will be rolled out later this week.
Sam, who became the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL last spring, graces one of six GQ coversreleased as part of the Men of the Year rollout. The 24-year-old shares the honor with “Guardians of the Galaxy” hunk Chris Pratt, Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley of “The Fault in Our Stars”, comedian Dave Chappelle, and “Foxcatcher” star Steve Carell, among others.
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.
According to the NY Daily News, Sam’s rookie jersey is outselling every other draft pick but Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. Although he was the 249th player selected in the draft, he is doing better than anyone picked in that position or ones picked earlier.
Michael Sam, a defensive end for the University of Missouri, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, making him the first openly gay athlete to be drafted in any of the four major American sports, and putting him on track to be the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
Sam, who was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, went as the 249th pick. He is only the second person ever to hold that title and fall out of the top 33 picks of the NFL draft. The other was Chad Lavalais of Louisiana State University, who was picked 142nd back in in 2004. Before the draft, CBS had Sam’s prospect ranking at 169.
If Sam went so late in the draft because teams were concerned about the unwanted attention that selecting the first gay player, they did not seem to be concerned about such impressions across the board; Zach Mettenberger, who plead guilty to sexual battery after groping a woman outside of a bar, went second in the sixth round of the draft. Prince Shembo, who was investigated in connection with the sexual assault of a woman who soon after committed suicide, was the 139th pick.
Now that Sam has been drafted, he will move onto the next challenge of securing a spot on the roster. He’ll need to make the team over the summer to become the first openly gay player actively in the NFL, and his spot isn’t guaranteed. As Alex Leichenger previously pointed out here on ThinkProgress, “Sam is considered undersized for an NFL defensive end and may have to become a linebacker in the pros…. His pass-rushing ability would be an advantage at outside linebacker, but there will be questions about whether he has the speed to play in pass coverage in the NFL.” Sam also had a fairly bad showing at the scouting combine earlier this year.
Still, some predicted that Sam would have difficulty finding a team that would draft him because of his coming out. One general manager predicted that he would not be drafted at all. And while public statements from teams and players in the league were encouraging, behind-the-scenes talk from people in the league showed doubt that Sam would garner a pick in the draft.
“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down,” an NFL scout anonymously told Sports Illustrated. “There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?’”
Below is video of the moment when Sam got the news: