Born on January 7, 1990, in Hitchcock, Texas, Michael Sam overcame a difficult childhood to become a promising football player. After revealing his homosexuality to teammates at the University of Missouri, he was named the conference co-defensive player of the year as a senior. Sam announced his orientation to the public in early 2014, and in May he became the first openly gay player to be selected by the NFL. Later during the year he dealt with professional challenges, being cut from two team rosters, yet was still named as one of GQ Magazine's Men of the Year.
Michael Alan Sam Jr. was born on January 7, 1990, in Hitchcock, Texas. The seventh of eight children of JoAnn and Michael Sam Sr., the future football star endured a difficult upbringing in a broken home. With danger lurking in the dark corners of their tiny town—three of his siblings were killed and another two were sent to prison—Sam found acceptance and a sense of purpose playing sports.
As a freshman at Hitchcock High School, Sam was already big and athletic enough to make an impact on the varsity football team. He also received much-needed guidance from the parents of classmate Ethan Purl, who gave the troubled teenager a room in their house. Sam earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Missouri in 2009, making him the first member of his immediate family to attend college.
A big fish in the small town of Hitchcock, Sam was overwhelmed by his introduction to big-time college football. He soon won over his teammates with his outgoing personality, and became a dependable regular on the starting squad as a defensive end. During those years, Sam also recognized that the attraction he felt to other men wasn’t going away. He began dating a member of the Missouri men’s swim team, and privately told a few teammates about his orientation.
At the start of his senior year, the Missouri coaches asked each member of the football team to reveal something about himself. Sam stood up and said he was gay, an announcement that drew the support of his teammates. The 6’2”, 260-pound athlete went on to deliver the best season of his collegiate career, leading the talent-packed Southeastern Conference with 11 1/2 sacks. At the end of the year, he was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American.
Coming Out Before NFL Draft
After graduating from Missouri in December 2013, Sam prepared for a career in football. Citing the need to disclose the truth as whispers about his orientation grew louder, he revealed he was gay in a February 2014 ESPN interview.
Previously known almost exclusively within the realm of college football, Sam instantly became a celebrity on a national scale. He received support from many notable public figures, but others questioned the wisdom of his announcement. No active player in the four major North American professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL) was known to be gay. A few scattered athletes had come out of the closet after retiring, and veteran basketball pro Jason Collins had admitted his homosexuality the previous spring, but had yet to sign with another NBA team. Further complicating Sam’s situation was his poor performance before pro football personnel at the NFL Draft Combine in late February.
Historical Moment and Challenges
The concerns swirled as the NFL Draft progressed from May 8-10 without Sam being selected by a team. The St. Louis Rams finally called out his name on the last day with the 249th overall pick, leading to a televised kiss between the controversial athlete and his boyfriend.
Sam faced some professional challenges when he was cut by the Rams in late August as they created their final roster for the upcoming season. He then joined the Dallas Cowboys for their practice squad, but was waived from the team in October. Some pundits claim taboos around sexuality are behind the athlete being let go by two teams while others say that his professional path has been placed in a huge spotlight but is not unusual.
Nonetheless, Sam's trailblazing activities have been applauded by numerous individuals and organizations and honored by GQ magazine, as in November 2014 he was named a Man of the Year, gracing the publication's cover.
While still seeking a place in professional football, Sam branched out in a new direction. He signed up to participate in the 10th anniversary season of Dancing With the Stars in 2015. Partnered with Peta Murgatroyd, Sam faced off against singer Patti LaBelle, actress and author Suzanne Somers and many other celebrities in this popular competition. He and Murgatroyd finished in 10th place.
After leaving Dallas, Sam signed a contract with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes in 2015, however he hasn’t participated with the team much since then due to reported health-related reasons.
Sam became engaged to his college boyfriend Vito Cammisano in 2015, but they reportedly have since parted ways.
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!