Sam played football for the University of Missouri, where he first came out publicly to his team.
“My name is Michael Sam, I’m from Hitchcock, Texas, my major is sports management and I’m gay,” Sam said he told his team.
He came out to the world on Feb. 9, 2014, before drafts for the NFL began.
“I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal — I was like, you know, I’m gonna come out, it’s gonna be a week or two, and then something else was gonna happen,” Sam said. “Well, it wasn’t like that at all — it was a big deal.”
When he went back to the University of Missouri to improve his football skills before draft picks, he was approached by a teammate whose cousin wanted to talk to him.
“She said, ‘I wanted to let you know that you saved my life,’” Sam said. “Turns out she had tried to commit suicide because she was gay and she couldn’t handle the bullying anymore.”
This conversation changed the way Sam saw his role as an athlete. He said he was no longer trying to play in the NFL for his own ego but rather as an inspiration to others who are struggling with their identity.
“After that conversation I said, you know, I will be the sword and shield, and I will be the voice of those who doesn’t have a voice for themselves,” Sam said.