Arts & Entertainment

St. Louis Rams pick gay player Michael Sam in 7th round of NFL draft

Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 then of the Missouri Tigers reacts to an interception during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.
Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 then of the Missouri Tigers reacts to an interception during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 then of the Missouri Tigers reacts to an interception during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.
Michael Sam #52 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates with fans after the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 then of the Missouri Tigers reacts to an interception during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.
Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam runs the 40-yard dash during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 24, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 then of the Missouri Tigers reacts to an interception during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.
Michael Sam then #52 of the Missouri Tigers reacts after Ben Grogan #19 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys misses a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter during the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 then of the Missouri Tigers reacts to an interception during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.
Former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 22, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images


Michael Sam was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday, becoming the first openly gay player drafted by a pro football team.

Sam played at Missouri, and came out as gay in media interviews earlier this year. His team and coaches knew his secret and kept it for his final college season.

RELATED: Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL Draft, awaits a new football home

He went on to have the best year of his career: He was the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.

He was taken with the 249th overall pick out of 256. He'll start his professional career not far from the place where he played his college ball.

Michael Sam kiss tweet

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Sam was considered a mid-to-late round pick, far from a sure thing to be drafted. He played defensive end in college, but he's short for that position in the NFL and slower than most outside linebackers, the position he'll need to transition to at the professional level.

The impact of his selection goes far beyond football. At a time when gay marriage is gaining acceptance among Americans, Sam's entry into the NFL is a huge step toward the integration of gay men into professional team sports. Pro sports have in many ways lagged behind the rest of society in acceptance.

Publicly, most people in and related to the NFL have been supportive of Sam. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said Sam would be welcome in the league and judged solely on his ability to play. A few wondered whether teams would be reluctant to draft Sam because of all the media attention that would come with it.

Fair or not, the NFL — coming off a season in which a bullying scandal involving players on the Miami Dolphins was one of the biggest stories in sports — was looking at a possible public relations hit if Sam was not drafted. He would likely have been signed as a free agent and given a chance to make a team in training camp, but to many it would have looked as if he was being rejected.

Now that he's here, it could be seen as an opportunity for the NFL to show that crass locker room culture is not as prevalent as it might have looked to those who followed the embarrassing Dolphins scandal.