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Sam, I Am: Defensive end embraces historic role at NFL Combine
INDIANAPOLIS — Someone from the hundreds-strong media throng gathered around the football player shouted out the question: “Do you feel like a trailblazer?”
The player smiled, not sure what to say.
“I feel,” he said, “like Michael Sam.”
Sam met the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday, two days before running sprints and doing field work that will continue his draft evaluation process. He wore a “Stand with Sam” button, given to him one week ago at a Missouri basketball game.
If he is selected, and makes a team, Sam will become the first publicly gay active athlete in the history of the major four American sports.
Thirteen days ago, Sam revealed what his Missouri coaches, teammates and, he said, “a good portion of my student body” had known all season long.
Saturday, in a charming, serious and, at times, funny interview session, Sam seemed comfortable yet at times conflicted by his role.
Yes, he’ll be remembered as the first openly gay athlete in his sport. Since his announcement, Sam has not been able to walk across campus without being hugged by friends and strangers. Many cried onto his shoulder.
But no, he did not want to be defined by it.
“Heck yeah, I wish you guys would just say, ‘Hey, Michael Sam, how’s football going? How’s training going?’” he said from a riser in front of at least 200 media members at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I’d love if you asked me that question.
“But it is what it is.
“I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player — instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”
The defensive end the football player measured 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, with long arms — 33 3/8 inches — and hands.
He’s been labeled a “tweener” — not quick enough to play linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and undersized as a defensive end.
“I’m a pass rusher,” the first-team All-American said. “If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m gonna get the quarterback.”
Sam said NFL teams have not asked about his sexuality since the announcement.
“I am not a GM,” he said. “I do not have control over my draft status.
“All I can control is, I need to prepare myself to put the best scores out there.”