NFL hopeful Michael Sam, who tells his story of perseverance and resilience after coming out publicly nearly a year ago, is one of the well-known figures participating in the #IAmUnbroken online video campaign in conjunction with the release of Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken.
“When I came out several months ago, I thought it would be easy,” Sam begins in his video message. The 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year couldn’t possibly have anticipated the whirlwind that transpired since, but he was prepared all along for the inevitable doubt from fans and critics about an openly gay man’s chance for success in the National Football League. “I wanted to shut up the talk,” Sam says simply.
The first step in silencing the haters was being drafted, and Sam recalls what he felt on Draft Day, plus the reaction to the kiss he gave his boyfriend, Vito, after being drafted. “When you got drafted, you gotta kiss someone that you love, and I did and it — oh, my God, the next day it blew up. A man kissed another man for the first time. Well, you know what, I’m all about making history.”
Sam did make history, becoming the first openly gay player to suit up for a preseason NFL game. He had 11 tackles and three sacks in the preseason. But the rookie linebacker faced a major setback when St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher informed him he would not be continuing on with the Rams for the regular season. “I was very disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised,” Sam recalls.
After a short stint with the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, Sam was cut again, but an exemplar of resilience, Sam knows his dream is still a possibility, “I’m not afraid to continue on this journey trying to make an NFL team,” he continues in the video. “I’m not going to let this discourage me. I’m not going to let this break me down.”
Universal Pictures’ #IAmUnbroken campaign “invites those from all walks of life to share their stories of triumph,” according to a press release. The Jolie-directed film Unbroken, which follows the story of Olympic athlete, World War II veteran, and prison camp survivor Louis Zamperini, hits theaters Christmas Day.
Watch Sam’s video below.