There are three overall pick numbers that will be remembered from the 2014 NFL draft. The 1st pick is always remember and this year went to Jadeveon Clowney. The 22nd (or 22th if you’re the Cleveland Browns twitter operator) pick went to Johnny Manziel; a quarterback who will either be a first ballot hall of famer or a complete flameout depending on who you ask. Finally, the 249th pick will be remembered as the moment Michael Sam broke the sexuality barrier in the NFL.
Two obvious, but important, things about the number 249, there were 248 people selected ahead of Michael Sam and 6 after. It was a real possibility that Michael Sam was going to go undrafted. When he declared for the draft he was expected to go in the 3rd of 4th round. Did him coming out affect his draft stock? Almost certainly, but it should also be remembered he had a bad combine workout as well. The NFL combine is a public workout that most of the players who want to be drafted attend. Michael Sam had the worst bench press of all the defensive ends and he was out bench pressed by a punter. Is a combine workout a perfect predictor of future success? Not at all, but it certainly hurt Michael Sam as well.
One of the reasons his coming out was expected to affect his draft position is that there are a lot of teams that didn’t want the media coverage that would inevitably come with him being on the team through no fault of his. We only have to look at what happened around the teams that Tim Tebow played for to get a good recent example. Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are one of the best teams in the league in terms of handling their media position. If he had gone to the Cowboys or the Jets a new tv network would have been born on the spot for the soul purpose of following him around. The Rams are even low key within their own division which includes the San Francisco 49ers and the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. This will allow Michael Sam to develop into a football player and not just forever be known as ‘the gay football player’.
There is a major problem with him going to the Rams though. Michael Sam is a defensive end who specializes in rushing the passer. The Rams already have two strong defensive ends in Quinn(a pro bowl selection last year) and Long. They have two strong backups at that position in William Hayes and Eugene Sims. The Rams arguably have 10 pass rushers on their 53 player roster. This will make it extremely hard for Sam to play a down let alone start this year. There are already many people suggesting he could get cut prior to the start of the season because of the way the Rams’s roster is set up. The best I think he can hope for in his rookie season is to get a special teams spot. That could work out in the long run because the Rams have great defensive line coaches so if Sam can make the cut it will mean he will be able to grow and develop under fantastic conditions.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you should watch the reaction video of when Michael Sam found out he was drafted. It is a truly touching video of him crying and kissing his boyfriend. It should be noted that the majority of players who are drafted cry in some fashion. Gay, straight, white, black, these are all people who learning that the thing they love most and have worked the hardest at is something they get to do professionally. I haven’t seen anyone try to say, “He’s crying because he’s gay,” but I just want to head that off by saying that either that isn’t rare at all or the NFL’s draft class this year was around 50% gay.
The kiss that follows the tearful announcement has been met with some homophobia from former NFL players Derrick Ward and Rudy Carpenter. Michael Sam’s new teammates have all been supportive though. There have been scripted gay and lesbian kisses on network TV going back to 1991 but with the recent increase in states allowing gay marriage and now Michael Sam there has been an increase in real moments between homosexual couples on national TV.
It’s likely that kiss was the first kiss between two men some people had ever seen. That kiss was between two men who were overflowing with honest joy. No matter what else happens in Michael Sam’s career, that moment will go far in convincing everyone that we are all the same.
As always, questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.