Is the NFL ready for its first openly gay player? All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam is set to make history after announcing that he is an "openly, proud gay man." Sam, whose coaches and teammates at the University of Missouri were already aware of his sexual orientation, is eligible for the NFL draft this May, though coming out before the draft may hurt his career in a league with an "overtly macho culture," the New York Times finds. Says Sam: "I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam: I'm a college graduate. I'm African American, and I'm gay. I'm comfortable in my skin."
"I understand how big this is," Sam tells 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." Draft forecasters predict that Sam—the AP's SEC Defensive Player of the Year—will be chosen in the third round and he believes he won't have trouble being accepted in the locker room, despite homophobic comments some current NFL players have made. "If you've ever been in a Division I or pro locker room, it's a business place," Sam says. "You want to act professional." The NFL has issued a statement supporting Sam and praising his honesty and courage.