College football star Michael Sam, a defensive lineman for the University of Missouri, told the New York Times that he is openly gay.
Sam, who was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the All-American team, came out during the pre-season to his coaches and teammates.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam said Sunday to the Times. "Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was. I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who's a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn't care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay. Is that true?' I would have said yes.
Sam graduated in December, and it's likely that he will be selected early in the NFL draft this May.
Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, called Sam's coming out a "courageous decision" that will provide "essential hope to millions of LGBT young people from the South, across the country and around the world. Trailblazers like Michael are tearing down barriers to equality almost daily, and I sincerely believe that the young person who will go on to become the first openly LGBT President of the United States watches today's news somewhere in this country and is inspired."
According to GLAAD, Sam's publicist, Howard Bragman, introduced the player to other gay athletes, including Dave Kopay, Wade Davis, Jason Collins, and Billy Bean, as well as allies Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe.
"By rewriting the script for countless young athletes, Michael has demonstrated the leadership that, along with his impressive skills on the field, makes him a natural fit for the NFL," said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. "With acceptance of LGBT people rising across our coasts -- in our schools, churches, and workplaces -- it's clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star."