KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Michael Sam says he can help teams win games and that's all that should matter. But no one can really say how his coming out will affect his career or how he will be accepted by an NFL team, but perhaps the media attention he is getting is a bigger distraction than the fact that he is gay.
"I'm Michael Sam, I'm a college graduate, I'm African-American and I am gay," Sam said in a televised interview with ESPN.
The Mizzou All-American and 2013 SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year revealed his well-known secret to the world. Sam will be the first openly gay player in the NFL if a team gives him a chance to compete. Former Tiger quarterback Corby Jones said the announcement and its proximity to the draft are both impactful.
"It's big and it's big coming out this close to the draft,” Jones said.
Now an attorney, Jones says the undersized defensive lineman's ability to jump from college ball to the NFL will be the question, not his sexuality. But all of this attention could be a distraction.
“But I think there is a stigma with men rolling around, being physical with other men that are attracted to men. I think that is something society has not encountered,” Jones said. “He's a bit of a trail blazer, because you don't know how this is going to inspire other gay NFL players to react."
If Sam was Jones’ client, he said he’s unsure on how he’d advise his client to proceed with a revelation like Sam’s.
“You couldn't get me to touch that question with a 10-foot pole. Honestly, I don’t know, I can just say if it were me personally, I don't know if I would have the intestinal fortitude to do that right now," Jones said.
Jones also reiterated that Sam’s ability to rush the passer and stop the run should be more important than his personal life.
"It really again hits home for me that it's what you bring to the table, it's not who you bring to dinner,” Jones said.
Kyle Piccola with the LGBT equality group “Promo” said Sam's revelation will serve an entirely different purpose of the field. He believes Sam’s courage will help others who are struggling with their secret.
"LGBT youth are two times more likely to be bullied in school, to face harassment. I think that this will also educate the rest of the community and reduce some of those troubling statistics for LGBT youth,” Piccola.
He also hopes this is another step to end the stigma for somebody to come out and reveal their sexuality.
“Aren’t we over being shocked that somebody is gay? He is the first NFL draft player, so that in and of itself is a huge feat and I am happy that we are talking about that,” Piccola said.
Until this afternoon, no general managers, directors of player personnel or head coaches have stepped up in support of Sam's decision to come out and affix their name to a quote. However, John Elway with the Denver Broncos was quoted on the team’s website later Monday afternoon as saying that he applauded his decision and will scout Sam like every other prospect. Elway is executive vice president of the Bronco's football operations.