MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A University of Missouri football all-American is making headlines around the country for announcing he is gay.
Defensive Lineman Michael Sam is widely expected to be picked in the early rounds of the NFL draft, which would make him the first openly gay player in the league.
While Sam just went public in interviews Sunday, he had come out to teammates and friends last year.
“I’m not afraid of who I am. I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam, I’m a college graduate, I’m African American and I’m gay,” Sam said.
One of the close friends Sam had confided in is a Twin Cities native and fellow University of Missouri athlete. Adam Rosenthal, 24, said Sam gave him a heads up that he was about to go public.
Then, last night, Rosenthal got a text message from Sam.
“He just sent me a message saying, ‘hey man, tune into ESPN around 7 o’clock,'” Rosenthal said.
In the interview, Sam said, “I knew from a young age I was attracted to guys.”
Rosenthal and Sam met at the University of Missouri where Rosenthal was on the golf team and Sam one of the football team’s biggest stars.
Sam even spent his 21st birthday with Rosenthal’s family here in the Twin Cities.
“He is just a great guy,” Rosenthal said. “He felt comfortable coming out and asked for my support and I said, ‘Absolutely, Mikey, you are a great guy we love you.’ My view of him never changed. Everyone around him just supported him.”
For 45-year-old former Vikings player, Esera Tuaolo, who came out only after he retired, Sam’s announcement is a sign of how much has changed.
“My biggest fear for myself was someone outing me and my losing my job,” Tualo said.
Tuaolo is convinced Sam’s announcement will not hurt his likely NFL career.
“This kid, he is the real deal. I would be so surprised if players were not supportive,” Tualo said.
Rosenthal said Sam told him Monday reaction so far has only been positive. Sam has also gotten support on social media from celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and First Lady Michele Obama, who tweeted this morning that Sam “is an inspiration to all of us.”c