(CNN) — Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, publicly revealed that he’s gay on Sunday, creating the possibility he could be the first openly gay player drafted by the National Football League.
“I came to tell the world I’m an openly gay, proud man,” Sam said in an interview with ESPN.
He said he told his Missouri teammates last August and suffered no repercussions. He said he was surprised to discover many people in the media already knew he was gay.
Sam, at 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, starred in college football last season. Besides being first team All-American, he was named the top defensive player in the Southeastern Conference, considered the nation’s best league. Teammates named him the team’s most valuable player.
With those credentials, he’s expected to be picked in the NFL draft in May.
The NFL issued a statement on Twitter Sunday: “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
Sam issued his own Tweet: “I want to thank everybody for their support and encouragement,especially @espn, @nytimes and @nfl. I am proud to tell my story to the world!”
Other athletes have come out as gay, but they didn’t have Sam’s profile.
GLAAD, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy group, said Sam is the latest high-profile athlete to come out as LGBT. Others include the NBA’s Jason Collins, the WNBA’s Brittney Griner, WWE’s Darren Young, UFC’s Liz Carmouche, MMA’s Fallon Fox and Major League Soccer’s Robbie Rogers.
–By Ralph Ellis. The-CNN-Wire
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