Michael Sam is an American footballer who plays for the Dallas Cowboys. He is also one of the few openly gay players in the National Football League (NFL). He was born Michael Alan Sam Jr. to Jo Ann and Michael Sam, the seventh of eight children in the family. He attended Hitchcock High School in Hitchcock, Texas and joined the school’s football team as a water boy at first, before being selected. He played both defensive and offensive positions on the team. During all four years of high school, Sam earned first-team All-District honors as a defensive lineman and as an offensive lineman in his junior and senior years. He received scholarship offers from several colleges such as Colorado State University, the University of Houston and Arizona State University but decided to attend the University of Missouri, or Mizzou as it is more popularly called.
Sam attended the University of Missouri from 2009 to 2013. He was redshirted in his first year, meaning that he delayed his participation in order to lengthen his period of eligibility, which is typically 4 years, to an extended period of 5 years. He participated in the Big 12 athletic conference and recorded 3.5 quarterback sacks and 24 tackles in his freshman year. In his sophomore year, his strategic play helped his team to beat the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and made them eligible to participate in postseason games. In 2012, he transferred to the Southeastern Conference (SEC), starting in 9 games and registering 3.5 sacks. In 2013, during his senior year, he tied Missouri’s single season record for sacks and scored the highest quarterback sacks and tackles for the SEC.
He was titled “SEC Defensive Player of the Week” for two weeks in a row as well as “SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year” post season. He was also selected in the all-SEC first team and all-American first team by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Sporting News, Football Writers Association of America, Associated Press and American Football Coaches Association. He was also a semifinalist for a number of awards such as the Hendricks Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Lombardi Award. In 2014, Sam was recruited to the NFL by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round as the 249th of 256 players selected in the 2014 draft. His professional debut was on August 8, 2014 against the New Orleans Saints. However his performance was a little disappointing and he was not claimed by or offered a deal from any NFL team. On September 3, 2014 he was added to the practice squad of the Dallas Cowboys.
Michael Sam had a troubled childhood and adolescence. One of his brothers was shot dead and one brother went missing and is now assumed dead. He also had an elder sister who died from drowning before he was born. Two of his brothers are serving time in jail. Sam broke away from this sordid life by playing football, despite the fact that his mother is a Jehovah’s Witness and strictly disapproves of it. He is also the only active openly gay player recruited by the NFL. He has received both immense support and criticism for his announcement. He first announced his decision to his team mates in August 2013 who were supportive of him, but avoided an official public announcement. He then admitted his sexual orientation to his father, whose reaction has been widely quoted as wariness, anger and support. Shortly after, he made a public announcement which some say might adversely affect his NFL rankings. Whether this proves to be true still remains to be seen.