Michael Sam has officially become the first openly gay player in the NFL, as the 24-year-old defensive end was selected by the Saint Louis Rams today at the 2014 NFL Draft in New York City.
“For Michael, it’s a little bit of relief that it’s over, and you can finally say you’re part of the NFL family. That is a dream come true for so many football players,” says former NFLer Wade Davis, who came out apost-retirement and now heads up the You Can Play Project. “Now he can really start to focus on his new journey.”
Davis helped prepare the league for Sam’s arrival earlier this year, meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, team owners owners, general managers and head coaches. Sam opened up about being gay in interviews with The New York Times and ESPN in February, and gave a press conference at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but since then he has maintained a low profile.
He was a seventh-round draft pick, though even that was by no means certain—and not only because of his sexual orientation. USA Today writes:
[Sam] was considered to be small by NFL standards, just 6-foot-2 and 252, and had a disappointing showing at the NFL scouting combine in February. His 40-yard dash was slow, at 4.91 seconds, and he didn’t jump as high or lift as much as the top pass rushers in the class.
But the Rams were able to see the man who was an all-star at the University of Missouri, and the man who had the courage to share his truth with the world. They saw the man that fans and NFL icons have rallied behind. And they saw the man who is 100% devoted to the game.
Just minutes ago Sam tweeted “Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. I’m using every ounce of this to achieve greatness!!”