Football / Sports

Rams select Michael Sam, first openly gay draft prospect

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It's been three months since Missouri's Michael Sam became the first openly gay NFL draft prospect. On Saturday he officially became the first openly gay NFL player.

And a St. Louis Ram.

The Rams drafted the Mizzou defensive end with one of two compensatory picks in the seventh round, with the eighth-to-last pick in the draft.

Last fall, Sam, 24, became Missouri's first unanimous All-American since 1960 and was named the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year after leading the league in sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

But Sam's story has transcended the sport of football and the NFL since he made his groundbreaking announcement on Feb. 9. That day, as he prepared for the the biggest job interviews of his life, Sam told the world what he shared with Mizzou teammates and coaches last summer. In two interviews, both carefully orchestrated by his agents and publicist, Sam told ESPN and The New York Times that he's gay.

The announcement officially put all 32 NFL franchises on notice: Which team would have the conviction to share a place in history with the a player who would bust through the league's next social barrier?

Three days into the draft, and with the 249th overall selection, the Rams became that team.

Considered smaller than the prototypical NFL defensive end, Sam didn't produce the kind of speed and quickness measurables at the NFL combine that land players at his position in the draft's early rounds. At 6-2 and 260 pounds, Sam isn't seen as an every-down defensive end in a 4-3 defense and lacks the coveted athleticism to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He figures to be more of a situational pass-rusher.

Unlike any other player in the draft, Sam's scouting report included another factor. Leading up to the draft, teams also had to consider the media sideshow that Sam will attract as the league's first openly gay player -- just the kind of distractions Mizzou avoided last season after Sam told the team in August he was gay.

(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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