Missouri All-American Michael Sam says he is gay, and the defensive end could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL.
In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports that were published Sunday, Sam said his teammates and coaches at Missouri have known since August.
“I am an openly, proud gay man,” he said.
The 255-pound Sam participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month after leading the Southeastern Conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19), and he is projected to be a mid-round NFL Draft pick.
“It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL,” he said in the interviews.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement Sunday night he was proud of Sam and how he represented the program.
“Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other,” Pinkel said. “If Michael doesn’t have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don’t think there’s any way he has the type of season he put together.”
Missouri linebacker Donovan Bonner has been a teammate of Sam’s for five years.
“We knew of his status for 5 years and not one team member, coach, or staff member said anything says a lot about our family atmosphere,” Bonner tweeted.
TENNESSEE: Linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive lineman Danny O’Brien were arrested on alcohol-related charges and resisting arrest, authorities said Sunday.
Officers received a call about a loud party at the apartment of former Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp, 22, who was also taken into custody with Johnson, 22, and O’Brien, 20, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said.
Johnson, a first-team all-Southeastern Conference selection last season, was charged with purchasing alcohol for a person underage and resisting arrest. O’Brien, a reserve nose tackle as a redshirt freshman last season, was charged with criminal impersonation, resisting arrest and underage consumption of alcohol.
O’Brien “had a very strong odor of alcohol on his breath and became combative” as an officer tried to take him into custody, according to the arrest report, which did not provide details about the other arrests.
Sapp was also charged with resisting arrest and buying alcohol for a person underage.
All three have been released. The players phone numbers were unlisted and it’s unclear if they have attorneys.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones said in a statement he’s aware of the situation and is gathering facts.
“We have very high standards and expectations within our football program at the University of Tennessee, and appropriate action will be taken,” he said.
Johnson made a team-high 106 tackles last fall in his third season as a starter. He had 138 tackles in 2012 and ranked fourth among all Football Bowl Subdivision players with 11.5 tackles per game. Johnson announced last month he would return for his senior season rather than entering the NFL Draft.
O’Brien made 12 tackles and played in all 12 games in a reserve role as a redshirt freshman last season. Sapp closed his career last fall by starting 12 games and making 66 tackles.