By Annie Hollenbeck
Originally published on Advocate.com June 10 2014 3:10 PM ET
Past the media attention of his public coming out to ESPN, his celebrated selection in the NFL draft, and the kiss seen round the world, Michael Sam has turned his focus solely to football. Last month Sam was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, making him the first openly gay NFL draft pick.
“I almost feel like home,” said Sam, according to ESPN.com. “They respect me as a human being and as a football player.”
As most rookies do, the defensive lineman and unequivocal All-American has quickly learned that football on the professional level is a whole different ballgame than his collegiate career. “I'm telling you, they get after it," Sam said of his fellow Rams defensive linemen. “They compete. I have got to step my game up to compete with this defensive line. I thought our defensive line at Mizzou was pretty tough. This is a whole new level.”
The tenacious Rams defense includes former first rounder Chris Long, who told reporters Friday, “We got a steal in whatever round we took [Sam] in.”
As far as the inevitable attention Sam has received, Long says it’s a nonissue. “Only the media cares," he says. “The players don't care, we just care about what kind of football player you are.”
Sam, meanwhile, remains focused on the bigger picture: making the Rams roster and suiting up with the team this fall. The rookie, known for his work ethic, says he is committed to self-betterment this summer and remains optimistic.
“It's faster, you've got to learn a lot more plays, you've got to know what you're doing,” Sam explained of the difference between pro and college ball, adding, “You're supposed to perform at a high level, and I'm doing pretty good.”