Local athletes applaud Sam's announcement
Updated: Tuesday, February 11 2014, 09:46 AM EST
Brockport, N.Y. - Never before has an openly gay man played in the NFL, but college football star Michael Sam is expected to break that barrier during the league's draft in May.
The All-America defensive lineman out of the University of Missouri is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick.
“I'm a gay man, and I'm happy to be one,” Sam said.
His public announcement made national headlines, with many talking about what this might mean for professional football and other gay athletes.
Local college athletes said they hope Sam’s decision to come out will help others be brave and be themselves.
“Football is still football, talent is talent,” said Jake Spalik, a captain of the College at Brockport football team. “I think now guys are going to see this and think, ‘Maybe it's OK if I come out. Maybe my teammates will support me.’”
“This is a big step, especially in the athletic world and from professional athletes all the way down to kids playing in high school,” said Mallory Apperson, a senior on the RIT women’s basketball team.
Sam came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August, but announced it to the world Sunday.
“I think it took a lot of guts,” Apperson said. “Honestly, I think it’s the best way he could have done it.”
While some analysts predict Sam’s decision to come out now will lower his stock in the NFL Draft, Spalik said this is bigger than football.
“It just shows that he's ready to come out,” Spalik said. “He's ready to be himself and he's not hiding anything, and I think that's what he wants, to go into the NFL knowing who he is, having no distractions.”
Spalik added he hopes the league, players, and fans support Sam and remember that sexuality has nothing to do with sports.
“It’s always had to do with talent, teamwork, dedication, things like that,” Spalik said. “It's never had anything to do with sexual orientation. So I don't know why it has anything to do with it now.”