By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Michael Sam broke down immediately upon hearing the news—he was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday, a simple call became historically poignant, in Sam becoming the first openly gay player drafted in NFL history.
Sam was taken with the 249th overall selection, seven up from the last pick at 256. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Sam was the Southeastern Conference defensive Player of the Year for Missouri, starting in 14 games and finishing the year with 48 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, and 11.5 sacks.
If Sam makes the Rams, he’ll make more history by becoming the first openly gay active player in NFL history. In August, he came out to his teammates about his sexuality. His teammates and coaches kept his secret, until before Sam himself announced it publicly just before the NFL Combine in February.
Entering the draft, Sam was considered a mid-to-late round pick. He played defensive end in college, but at 6-2, he may be considered too short for that position in the NFL. That may transition Sam to outside linebackers, where he may not have the foot speed for the NFL level.
It is, however, a great positive. It’s a move that impacts more than football.
Sam has achieved universal applause by both the general public and sports world. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated Sam would be welcomed into the NFL and evaluated on his ability. But there remained a silent stigma as the draft was winding whether any NFL team would select Sam, since it would also accompany a media swell along with it.
The NFL could use the positive spin. The league took a major PR hit from the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal—and there would have surely been some questions asked if Sam went undrafted.
Now it’s just a matter of whether or not Sam has the ability to play in the NFL.