NFL trailblazer Michael Sam thanks Carl Nassib for 'owning your truth' as Derek Carr weighs in

·3-min read

Before Carl Nassib's groundbreaking decision Monday to come out as gay, there was Michael Sam. 

The Missouri defensive end was named SEC co-defensive player of the year during his senior season in 2013. In February before the 2014 NFL draft, he announced that he is gay. 

“I am an openly, proud gay man,” Sam said on ESPN. 

NFL draft drama after Sam's revelation

While Sam was a force as a senior in college, racking up 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2013, he was undersized for his position at the NFL level and considered a mid-to-late round draft prospect. After his announcement, some wondered if he would be drafted at all.

More than 240 picks into the 256-pick draft, Sam's name had yet to be called. The St. Louis Rams stopped his slide, selecting Sam with the 249th pick. When his name was called, Sam turned to kiss boyfriend Vito Cammisano as an ESPN camera documenting the draft party broadcast the celebration to its audience of football fans. 

Sam never realized NFL dream

The moment was not met with widespread acclaim. It instead made Sam a continued target of homophobic slurs. Sam's football career likewise didn't go as hoped. The Rams cut him a week before the start of the regular season. He then signed with the Cowboys, but never saw the playing field with Dallas before Jerry Jones informed him weeks later of his release.

Sam eventually played a single game for the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. That was the extent of his in-game professional football experience. So while Sam was the first openly gay NFL draft pick, he never realized his dream of becoming the first openly gay active NFL player. 

Nassib's revelation met with support

That status now belongs to Nassib, who's announcement on Monday was met with support from his Las Vegas Raiders, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFLPA and a handful of current and former NFL players. On Tuesday, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr weighed in with his support, telling reporters that he reached out to Nassib after his announcement. 

“I have often said I love my teammates," Carr told reporters. "I mean it. We always say we are a family in that Raider locker room, and we mean that. I want to win a championship here with Carl and the rest of our teammates."

Sam thanks Nassib

Sam also added his name to that list of supporters, thanking Nassib for "owning your truth" in a tweet early Tuesday.

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As an established NFL player receiving open support from from his team the league and his quarterback, Nassib's status as a pro appears secure. While the larger reception to his news among players on the field and in locker rooms remains to be seen, the league as a whole is better prepared for Nassib's revelation in 2021 than it was for Sam's in 2014.

For his role in that progress, Sam deserves thanks for his own.

Michael Sam was the first openly gay NFL draft pick, but never played a snap in the league. (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)
Michael Sam was the first openly gay NFL draft pick, but never played a snap in the league. (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

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