Michael Sam did something no other bonafide National Football League (NFL) prospect has ever done —he came out as openly gay after completing his college playing career prior to the 2014 NFL draft, something many people felt was a risky move. On January 26 Sam made news again when he tweeted “I’m going to give it one more shot,” referring to a still-hoped-for career in the NFL.
Sam was originally expected to be picked up in the third or fourth rounds of the 2014 draft. But after a disappointing performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, Sam’s future was more uncertain.
Eventually drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round, a video of Sam and his then boyfriend, Vito Cammisano celebrating the moment with a big kiss quickly went viral. The video earned both praise from members of the LGBT community and harsh criticism by other groups.
When the Rams didn’t add Sam to their practice squad, he found a home with the Dallas Cowboys in September 2014 but was then waived by the Cowboys the following month.
Offered an opportunity to play in the Canadian Football League (CFL), Sam became that league’s first openly gay player when he signed a two-year contract with the Montreal Alouettes in May 2015. Eventually placed on the team’s suspended list, Sam’s six-month engagement to Cammisano had been called off and he eventually left the Alouettes altogether for personal reasons, citing a concern at times for his mental health.
In the fall of 2015 Sam returned to his alma mater, the University of Missouri to pursue a master’s degree although his program of study wasn’t mentioned. But he did say at that time that he was still hopeful for an NFL career.
The former player has been honored a number of times since he first came out. In 2014 he won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY’s and was named one of GQ Magazine’s Men of the Year. He was also a finalist for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
His latest award will come February 27 in Phoenix when The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) will recognize Sam with its Visibility Award for his courage and compassion as an LGBT advocate on the national stage. “Michael Sam has made incredible strides for LGBT communities around the world,” said Deanna Jordon, co-chair of this year’s HRC Gala Dinner.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN