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Draft prospect Michael Sam could become first openly gay NFL player

Michael Sam was a very good college football player at Missouri. He'll be drafted in May, and should make a good defensive lineman for a NFL team for years to come.

Sam came out publicly as being gay on Sunday, to the New York Times and ESPN. We'll finally get to see that a player's sexual orientation has nothing to do with his ability to excel on the football field. Sam, assuming he gets drafted as expected, will be the NFL's first openly gay player.

Sam came out to his teammates before last season, The Times said. Rumors about him being gay had already started well in advance of the draft. He decided to come out now, on his own terms.

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam told the New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”

Sam was a unanimous All-American in 2013, just the second unanimous All-American in Missouri history. He was the Associated Press' pick as SEC defensive player of the year and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award after leading the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. He's a fine player, expected to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft.

Will the announcement hurt his draft stock? SI.com polled eight NFL personnel executives and coaches, and said that all eight "believed that Sam's announcement will cause him to drop in the draft."

"I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down," a veteran NFL scout told SI.com. "There's no question about it. It's human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote 'break that barrier?'"

That's possible, considering there still are people in the NFL who aren't very progressive. It's also possible that's your fairly common pre-draft smokescreen. If a team thinks Sam, who is a bit undersized for an end at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, can help it win then it will draft him. At least smart teams will.

The NFL has had gay players before, of course. Former Redskins tight end Jerry Smith's story of being a gay pro player was told on a recent episode of NFL Network's "A Football Life." His former teammate Dave Kopay announced he was gay after he was done with football. But Smith, Kopay and others, kept their sexual orientation private during their playing careers. There has been a worry for years that a gay player wouldn't be accepted in a NFL locker room. We'll get a chance to see now that Sam has announced he is gay.

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