Posted February 22, 2014

Michael Sam owns his moment at the scouting combine

2014 NFL Draft Primer, 2014 Scouting Combine
Michael Sam put his best face forward at the scouting combine. (Ben Liebenberg/AP)

Michael Sam put his best face forward at the scouting combine. (Ben Liebenberg/AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — “Good afternoon. My name is Michael Sam, and I play football for the University of Missouri. As you may know, Missouri is the ‘Show Me State,’ and I think I’ve shown you guys enough in the past couple of weeks. But I’m learning about the media, and you guys still want more, so ask your questions, and I’ll answer them the best I can.”

It’s now very, very clear that Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam knew precisely what he was doing when he announced, before the scouting combine, that he would be the first openly gay draft prospect in NFL history. He had a concise idea what the ramifications would be, and he somehow inherently knew that he was ready to take this definitive and historic step forward. Somehow, he knew that he was the right man for that job.

And when he took the podium at the scouting combine on Saturday afternoon, Sam was as honest, poised and intelligent as you’d imagine. He was an ideal representative to break new ground.

“No, not at all,” he said, when asked if he’s worried about the reactions from teammates, opponents or fans. “I’ve been getting a lot of great positives from all kinds of fans. And when I’m on the field, I really don’t focus on fans. I’m focused on my responsibilities, such as the guy across from me.”

And when asked if he’d be okay if the Miami Dolphins selected him, he was clear that he — ironically enough — refused to discriminate. Even though the Dolphins organization has many more dings on it than Sam does … no matter what your beliefs may be.

“If the Miami Dolphins drafted me, I would be proud to be part of that organization,” he said. “But I’m not afraid of going into that environment. I know how to handle myself, I know how to communicate with my teammates, I know how to communicate with my coaches, and any other staff.”

Sam told me from the podium that he did not notice any difference in the reactions of his teammates in the locker room or elsewhere, and if that’s true … well, there’s still the point that his teammates then already knew him. And from all accounts, Sam is as high-character a person as you’ll see on a football team. He’s never been in any kind of trouble with the law, he appears to play at the top end of his potential, and the way he’s gone about this process speaks very highly of his maturity and intelligence.

What happens when he gets in an NFL locker room with people who don’t know him, and tend to be a bit rough on rookies under the most comfortable of circumstances? That’s a story we’ll have to see play out. But the amazing thing about the public perception of Sam’s orientation is the number of people who knew on the Missouri campus, and what a fuss it wasn’t until Sam announced it publicly.

“Everyone could be normal around me,” Sam said. “We would joke around, because it’s a brotherhood and it’s a family. We can say things to each other, and there’s no harm. We don’t draw blood. It’s all fun and games. A good portion of the student body knew, and word did get out, but we protect one another at Mizzou, I guess.”

Sam said that he’s been training for the combine — “missing in action” as he called it — so he’s not fully aware of the media reaction. Now, he wants it to be as much about the game as it possibly can be, though he seems to understand the size of the can he opened. He said that he has no endorsements, though one imagines that will change soon in some form or fashion.

The real problem with Sam is not how he handles himself — it’s quite clear that he’s able to deal with whatever he’ll need to. The problem is that, when you switch on the tape, Sam appears to be a third-day talent. And when it comes to the level of hype and attention that will inevitably circle around him, Sam may be more of a risk than if he were a sure-fire first-round prospect.

But outside of that sphere, it’s become very clear that just as Jackie Robinson was the right person to carry his cause into the sporting world for an infinite number of reasons, Michael Sam chose himself to do this, and he was absolutely correct in doing so.

73 comments
rodp236
rodp236

Will love it when SI gets back to football and not all the miniscule side stories that they continually run and run to fill up  a column..........................................

ChrisWyman'sSportPage
ChrisWyman'sSportPage

Sam was meh. If there were gay people in the world you would have more gay football players but alas there are not many gay people in the world and I see no reason why we have to have this discussion. He prefers a mans butt over a woman's V who cares. 

The_truth_hurts
The_truth_hurts

What a stupid timing for this guy to come out as gay. Should have waited until he had a contract. Now he will have 10x the media covering him during the combine and he will feel more pressured into running faster/lifting more. He wont be able to focus on football, just all these media hounds trying to write a story.

muser
muser

He might as well practice this..His career will be in speaking, not football. 

ianlinross
ianlinross

If he wants to be a national spokesman for gay rights, I can some teams steering away from him. They don't want TMZ, CNN, the BBC and ESPN constantly in their facility. 

For Sam's sake, this presser at the Combine had better be a one-and-done. 

PHIFAN20
PHIFAN20

Sports media needs to stop covering this garbage, he ain't first gay dude ever. He's a dude that likes to eat d!ck and not vag big deal

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

I love all these pro gay people.  Where were you guys 15 years ago?  And let me ask you this, do you support incestuous marriage, how about polygamy?  If not, why?  Are you incestophobic? 

mystafugee
mystafugee

It's hilarious that Evangelical Christians complain about the media shoving this homosexuality stuff in their faces.  Okay, how about this, you stop trying to shove your religion down people's throats and the media stops with their "gay agenda."  Deal?  I'm Catholic and to me Jesus's teachings were about helping others but apparently the prophets in the Evangelical church apparently believe his teachings were to make sure the poor suffer, discriminate against gays, spend all your time worrying about abortions and contraceptives.  If you guys want to be bigots, so be it but don't distort the gospel by substituting your own personal opinions for the word of god.  

millsman28
millsman28

There are concerns regarding the Michael Sims story or saga if you will. Sims is the Missouri football senior who, before the upcoming NFL 2014 draft declared to the world that he is gay. So there are 2 issues that I have been watching and listening to and for and it seems as though Sims is getting a pass but should he? 1. This is “Not” a civil rights issue. I have been amazed at the number of pundits who are calling Sims the modern day “Jackie Robinson”. Anyone who says that should be ashamed of themselves for saying such a thing. Sims was not getting shunned or passed by for the NFL draft, or not being able to rent an apartment, eat in the same restaurant or stay at the same hotel as his former Missouri teammates. He wasn’t denied the ability to get a job because of his skin color, date a girl because of his skin color, sit at the back of a bus, use separate toilets, not allowed to play with children because of his skin color. Until Sims said he was gay, who, outside of his Missouri teammates or the community he lived in would have known? So this is not a ground breaking civil rights act that Sims is taking. In fact, when many of us who have had family or we personally have experienced racism and have been persecuted with any of the above scenarios, it is offensive and demeaning to suggest that what Sims is going through is a civil rights ground breaking moment. Those of us who have lived through discrimination know better. 2. Does it not seem disingenuous that Sims declares to the world that he is gay just before the NFL draft and combines? Whether he is gay or not is not the issue; the issue is that now how can he be evaluated without the interference of a social issue in the back of any decision to be made? Until his declaration, except for Missouri, the teams he played against, college football junkies, football scouts, who knew of this young man? In fact, he was projected to be a 3rd to 7th round pick at best so what crosses my mind is, “Was this a preemptive strike so that instead of his talent being the key to making a squad, it is another issue that changes the landscape of that decision?” In fact just today (Feb 22), Sims was interviewed saying that he hoped he would be judged as a football player. Again, disingenuous because that won’t happen. Why? Let’s say he makes whatever football team, was it because he was good enough or did that team feel that they would be unduly micro-scoped so they had to keep the gay player on their team? Or the reverse, Sims gets cut and then will it be because he was gay and not because he wasn’t good enough to make the team? At this point, Sims cannot ask for anyone to treat him as just a football player trying to make the NFL. He has opened the box and how he is perceived now will be different than had he made a team and after proving he was a professional football player, then made his declaration. I know I would have had more respect for him had he earned his place as a “Pro” first but this, “Is Not” a Civil Rights Issue and it seems very strange and the timing is interesting to speak now before the draft. Instead of a great story of a young man making a professional football team, we now have a saga. Michael Sims is no Jackie Robinson. Sorry but he couldn’t have held Robinson’s cleats.. Anything otherwise desecrates the memory of a trail blazer!

HarshRealities
HarshRealities

Ironic that you hear all the talking heads on the sports channels spending hours saying that Sam should be judged solely on his football abilities.

theevilhour
theevilhour

There's no media circus outside of your mind. How many times can reporters ask the same question before they look like idiots? Let's see. 80% of past SEC DPoY was drafted first round, so why won't Sam be drafted? 

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

I cant believe the media makes this guy a hero and the gay community CONTINUES to say they are treated terribly and CONTINUES to compare themselves to the Civil Rights movement. 

jacksonatl
jacksonatl

certainly it took courage for sam to come out; however, it was awfully convenient to do so AFTER his college football career was over.  it might be the cynic in me, but by creating this media storm before the draft, it will look bad for the NFL to pass on him in the upcoming draft...not saying it is being orchestrated that way by sam and his advisors; but some could say it looks that way.

Zero1337
Zero1337

Honestly this kid has played the Media perfectly, hes basically a UDFA quality talent but because hes gay he WILL get drafted because as a few brave players have pointed out, everything is now about how brave he is for admitting hes gay and if anyone doesn't think hes brave and amazing then they are homophobic. At this point some team is going to take him in the 3rd or 4th round just to try and make a media splash and earn brownie points with Goodell for making the league look super tolerant.

rodp236
rodp236

@The_truth_hurts You can believe that a lot of teams focus on football talent and don't need the circus side show. He makes his marketability a lot less--not too smart when it comes to money of which he will have a lot less..................................

mystafugee
mystafugee

@millsman28  I realize this is a message board and all but do a little research before making stupid comments.  First off it's "Sam" not "Sims."  Secondly, it's apparently disingenuous that Sam declares his lifestyle publicly before the draft?  


Maybe you didn't realize that NFL teams were sniffing around trying to find out if he was gay.  So this whole "he's doing it for publicity" or to "enhance his draft status" is nonsense.  It was a preemptive move against something that was inevitable.  Better he does it himself than some outlet "outing" him.   


How is calling him a modern-day Jackie Robinson desecrating the memory of Jackie Robinson?  I would say comparing him to Jackie Robinson is the  ultimate compliment showing just how high Robinson is held.  Nobody said coming out and breaking the color barrier were the same thing.  Having said that, if you have noticed in the news, some states are actively trying to codify discrimination against gays.  You've got countries, notably Russia and a couple African countries who openly discriminate against gays.  There are countries in the middle east where it's illegal to be gay.  You know of any countries that say it's illegal to black?  

mystafugee
mystafugee

@ChadCollins9  It is heroic, he has a lot to lose by coming out (see the comments by anonymous GMs).  

StephenGrange
StephenGrange

@jacksonatl  he "came out" to his college team over a year ago..and he "publicly" came out at this time so that he..and not some media hound did it..


Beyond that..maybe you are the one with the issue and NOT Mike Same?

mystafugee
mystafugee

@jacksonatl  How stupid are you, he had to come out because NFL teams were probably about to "out" him.  

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@Zero1337 homophobic is the most ridiculous term of all time.  Its nothing but a propoganda term.  Apply this term to other facets of life.  Dont agree with war, you are warophobic.  Dont agree with rape, you are rapeophobic.  Its just holds zero scientific credibility.  Are gays heterophobic?

mystafugee
mystafugee

@Zero1337  If him coming out isn't a big deal, then why were NFL teams trying to find out?  The laws in this country are quite clear  on this matter but apparently NFL teams (see Dez Bryan'ts interview with the Dolphins) don't always follow it.  

jacksonatl
jacksonatl

@Zero1337  I did not see your post before I posted.  A agree with you 1000%!

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@mystafugee because gays use the term "marriage equality" and everyone is always like "thats right, equality for all"!!!!!  

millsman28
millsman28

@mystafugee @millsman28interesting how you feel like you can be condescending with your comments. So I made a mistake, my comments still stand. So are you trying to tell me that Sam, who was only going to be a 3rd to a 7th round pick doesn't get a bounce because of this? maybe you want to be blind and give it  a pass but again, I say disingenuous And we are talking about getting a job in the NFL. Yes, I know atrocities going on in the world but this guy, not a blue chipper, not a sure fire first rounder or even second rounder is now the news in the upcoming draft, not because he's this incredible player but for something else? It is not coincidence. Further to your snooping around comment about scouts, unless you have valid proof that he'd be wiped out because of his sexual preference, then you can't say that but what is apparent is, Sam will not be evaluated like the other draftees and it's not because someone tilted the field that way, save him. I hope he makes the team he's drafted by but it shouldn't be because the team that drafts him should feel pressure to keep him if he's not up to the task.


And finally, it is apparent that you aren't black because if you were, you would never equate this young man with Jackie Robinson. until you lived the life I've lived, my family and so many others have, you would use other similars but not this. I could say more about it but it is enough to know that you have no idea what it is to have lived at points being marginalized because of your skin color and it's affects. And answer this, someone could see me coming and make a judgement because they see my skin color; so unless Sam opens his mouth, how does anyone know his sexual preference? So, while you sound righteous, there are holes in that argument. And he's again and I reiterate even more strongly, "No Jackie Robinson."

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

so he has sex with men, I have sex with women, but hes a hero.  I just dont get it.  That and the fact that homosexuals are always saying, "what we do is our business, why do you care".  Then they always have a formal announcement to let everyone know they are gay

Zero1337
Zero1337

@mystafugee @Zero1337  The funny thing about the Dez Bryant story was that the guy who asked it said he was basically trying to bait a reaction to see how Bryant would react to see how mature he was. Considering Bryant has been hounded by immature behavior and stupid emotional mistakes on and off the field since his drafting, I'd honestly say the question was merited and intelligent.


Also Sam's homosexuality was an open secret in collage, everyone at the university knew as did all the scouts. The only people not in the know where the press and his father. Sam and his people (NFL prospects have publicists folks) choose to air this prior to the draft and even prior to the combine for a reason. Publicity, much like Jason Collins a complete nobody with negligible talent but the gift of being born as a near 7 footer in basketball, declaring himself gay has made him a celebrity and possibly helped his career in ways the combine probably never could (he played awful at the senior bowl fyi).

dizzz
dizzz

@ChadCollins9 @mystafugee  I actually liked the direction this thread took.  At the beginning I thought it would be the usual homophobic rant, but some other issues were brought up that are thought provoking and will eventually have to be addressed by society at large.  We may not like it, but unless they are not harming each other or society in general (regardless of our sensibilities religious or otherwise.  That's a whole other discussion) and it's between consenting adults with no coercion at all and not involving children who's to say.  As a society we are always evolving.

JayRamos
JayRamos

@ChadCollins9... WTF? Must be quite convenient to invent your own "facts". It's well documented that heterosexual males make up the large segment of pedophiles so Chad.. you best be careful around children or others may assume you to be a "chester"!


ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

No problem, I appreciate the conversation. 

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@mystafugee  I agree.  With homosexuals already trying to abolish age of consent years ago, who knows what can happen.  

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@mystafugee exactly right.  A Federal judge in Utah already got the polygamy thing going.  He overturned it.  Its a matter of time before that is legal now.  For that matter pedofiles are using the same argument homosexuals are and are trying to get "rights".  I have an article on it.  

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@mystafugee nothing.  But "marriage equality" doesnt just mean straights and gays.  There are alot more groups out there who can not marry.  That is not this "marriage equality" they speak of 

mystafugee
mystafugee

@ChadCollins9 @mystafugee  Yes, it is about marriage equality, they should be allowed to get married.  Again, what does that have to do with incest and polygamy?  

millsman28
millsman28

@StephenGrange @millsman28@mystafugeeNo, the context is that calling what Sam is doing a civil rights moment akin to Jackie Robinson is a farce and a slap to anyone who had to deal with the type of discrimination that he and others faced. Further, what Sam did is a free speech issue and not a civil rights issue.

I still find it weird and the timing should raise issue with any "Clear, thinking" person that Sam would declare before the combine and the draft. He then cannot ask anyone to just view him as a football player when he's made it more than that. 

You're trying to tell me that Sam, 3rd round to 7th round projection at best has not made himself "The Topic" now and many people will now be looking to see who drafts him, will they keep him and will it be based on merit or otherwise?

You can act like he hasn't tilted the boards but he has and now we'll see what happens.


One last thing; maybe you sir need to think more and type less when you want to show off your thinking power because it just comes off as pompous, arrogant and full of yourself. 


StephenGrange
StephenGrange

@millsman28 @mystafugee  Did you just say that one cannot fully appreciate JJR unless you are black?


Equality IS a civil rights issue..you don't agree? That's a free speech issue..


But insinuating that Mike Sam "came out" because of some "unearned benefit"?...


You sir, need to type less...and think harder.

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@mystafugee fair deal man.  I appreciate the mature conversation.  Unlike these other idiots who deny factual inforation

mystafugee
mystafugee

@ChadCollins9  I agree it shouldn't but apparently it's a big deal to NFL people.  It's a question they ask players even though it's illegal.  

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

I see your point, I just dont think anyone should make national news because of their sexuality, its absurdity. 

mystafugee
mystafugee

@ChadCollins9  What's so hard to understand?  He's part of a group of people who have been historically and quite frankly in many places currently discriminated against.  Have heterosexuals been a historically persecuted group?  

mystafugee
mystafugee

@Zero1337 @mystafugee  Please explain how I'm being a bigot?  If you find it annoying that he's a bigger story than Clowney, etc, that's your problem.  The media covers things that people want to find out about.  This happens all the time, (see Tim Tebow). 

Zero1337
Zero1337

@mystafugee @Zero1337  Hating on him are bigots, its funny because your being a bigot by definition. 


I don't care about him being gay, I do find it annoying that hes a bigger story however then Jadevon Clowney, Khalil Mack, the three amazing OT prospects who just aced the combine. Nope instead the big story is a gay player who scouts had marked as a day 3-udfa level talent. Why? Because hes gay. He failed horribly at the senior bowl, on tape its clear his success was the result of the system, and yet, some team is going to take him early in the draft. Why? Because they will want the publicity hit, they will want the goodwill from Roger Goodell, and the huge amount of merch they will sell to the LGBT community. I just hope its not my team, I hope my team drafts actual good players who can make actual plays on the field. Who will become famous for something other than their sexuality.

mystafugee
mystafugee

@Zero1337 @mystafugee  How is asking someone "was your mom a prostitute" considered a merited and intelligent question?  First off, good interviewers ask open-ended questions.  Secondly, the question was not asked as a way to see how mature he was, I should also point out the GM in question was recently fired by the Miami Dolphins since that locker room was apparently full of mature players. 


Sam's homosexuality was an open secret among teammates.  He never mentioned it outside of that circle.  NFL types have been known to ask about things like homosexuality, so I don't disbelieve at all those stories that scouts were asking teammates about his sexuality.  Having said it, the issue was going to get out, what's wrong with airing it publicly?  Better he just come out and say it than some other source break the news.  I'm guessing the same people who accuse him of doing it for publicity would have accused him of trying to hide it, if he didn't come out.  Most of the people hating on him quite frankly are bigots.  Might as well call it for what is and quite frankly, that segment of the population is declining rapidly.