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St. Louis Makes Michael Sam NFL’s First Openly Gay Player

Rams Draft Michael Sam
Michael Sam, then of the University of Missouri Tigers, celebrates with fans after a game on November 9, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photographer: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Michael Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the National Football League draft, making the former University of Missouri defensive end the first openly gay player in the most-watched U.S. sports league.

The Southeastern Conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year revealed in February that he’s gay, making public what he’d told teammates before last season. Sam’s disclosure came two weeks before veteran Jason Collins, the first openly gay active player in any of the four main North American sports leagues, signed with the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets.

Bob Witeck, a gay-marketing strategist and corporate consultant, has said Sam could earn millions in endorsements and speaking engagements from companies seeking to capture more of the buying power of an adult U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population that he pegged at $830 billion last year.

Sam, 24, tied a school-record with 11 1/2 quarterback sacks during his senior season at Missouri and totaled 21 sacks in 52 college games.

His agent, Cameron Weiss, said the 6-foot-2, 255-pound (116-kilogram) football player has received dozens of endorsement offers, according to ESPN.

On May 8 he signed his first sponsorship deal -- with Visa Inc., the world’s biggest bank-card network.

249th Pick

Sam was the 249th selection out of 256 in the seven-round draft that concluded yesterday. He had been projected by ESPN’s Scouts Inc. as a sixth-round pick. Nate Silver’s site said a historical assessment of players with similar scouting projections had a 50 percent chance of being selected.

Sam, who worked out at both linebacker and defensive end during Senior Bowl practices in January, ran his 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 4.91 seconds. That ranked in the lower half of defensive ends, 0.38 seconds behind No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, and would have been the second slowest time for an outside linebacker.

“Going into the combine I thought Michael Sam was a man w/out a position,” former Dallas Cowboys executive and analyst Gil Brandt said on Twitter. “His 4.91 today might have confirmed it.”

Sam’s 17 reps in the bench press were the second-fewest among defensive ends -- only UCLA’s Cassius Marsh had fewer with 14 -- and his 25.50-inch vertical leap and 7.8-second performance in the three-cone drill, which tests agility and quickness, were both slowest at the position.

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