Michael Sam is leaving pro football, he announced in a series of tweets Friday.
Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL, cited a problems in the past as his reason for leaving the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, ESPN reports.
“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health,” he tweeted. “Because of that I am going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for the opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon.”
The pressure of being a pioneer likely has gotten to Sam, Cyd Zeigler of Outsports told ESPN. “When you decide to be a trailblazer, sometimes that trail gets awfully bumpy,” Ziegler said. Among other things, his engagement to Vito Cammissano has reportedly ended, Zeigler noted.
Sam had left the Alouettes for two weeks in June to go home to Dallas, saying he was taking the leave for personal reasons, but when he rejoined the team at the end of the month he said he was fully committed.
He had signed with the Alouettes after being cut by the two NFL teams — the St. Louis Rams, which drafted him after his stellar college career with the University of Missouri, and the Dallas Cowboys. The defensive end sat out the Alouettes’ first five games this summer but made his debut with the team August 7, although he failed to record a tackle.
Sam still has a chance to make it in pro football if he performs well on the field, but it will be harder for him now, Zeigler said: “He has to prove even more now to people who are going to doubt him.”