INDIANAPOLIS — Under the bright lights at the NFL Scouting Combine, Missouri linebacker Michael Sam made one thing clear, he wants to be known for his abilities on the football field.
“I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player,” he said on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sam, who was the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, will become the first openly gay football player in the NFL when he's drafted in May. Sam doesn't care if his sexuality will affect his draft status by saying, "I'm not a GM, I don't have control over it." Sam handled a pressure-filled media session tremendously and owned the moment as well as he could have.
Sam is considered a tweener at the NFL level. He played defensive end with the Tigers, but is expected to be a fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. His size isn't ideal as he stands at 6-foot-1, 260 pounds, but he says his ability to get to the quarterback shouldn't be a question.
"I'm a pass rusher, if you put me in the situation to get the quarterback then I'm going to get to the quarterback," he said. "I can drop back in coverage as well, but my specialty is rushing the passer."
The All-American stated that he's an "openly, proud gay man" during an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" earlier this month. Although Sam told his entire football team that he was gay prior to the start of the 2013 season.
"Word got out, but we protect one another at Missouri," Sam said.
Sam isn't worried about the treatment he would get in an NFL locker room, which is a prominent concern after the bullying fiasco involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin this past season in Miami. He mentioned to the media in Indianapolis that he doesn't care what is said to him in the locker room and that it's all just "fun and games."
Saturday's media session proved that Sam is ready for the spotlight and the concerns over how this will affect his play at the next level shouldn't be an issue. Each question was answered with ease and there wasn't a single moment that he seemed overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding him.
"I'm not a trailblazer. I'm just Michael Sam."