Missouri's Sam Could Become First Publicly Gay NFL Player - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Missouri's Sam Could Become First Publicly Gay NFL Player

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(NBC NEWS) --- A University of Missouri football star projected to be drafted into the NFL could become the first publicly gay pro football player.

According to interviews with The New York Times and on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" program on Sunday, Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman, said he told his teammates last year, "I'm gay."

"I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out," he told The New York Times on Sunday.

The 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior, named first team All-American, was the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, widely regarded as the top league in college football.

"I understand how big this is," Sam told ESPN. "It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be.... I want to be a football player in the NFL."

Other pro athletes who have said they are gay include Jason Collins, a veteran of 12 NBA seasons who came out last year but has not played on a team since. Robbie Rogers, a Major League Soccer midfielder with the Los Angeles Galaxy, also has said he was gay.

But Sams would be the first active publicly gay NFL player.

GLAAD, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group responded to the news Sunday night.

"By rewriting the script for countless young athletes, Michael has demonstrated the leadership that, along with his impressive skills on the field, makes him a natural fit for the NFL," GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "With acceptance of LGBT people rising across our coasts — in our schools, churches, and workplaces -- it's clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star."

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