One intriguing subplot in the story of Michael Sam, the former Missouri standout who may become the first openly gay NFL player, is how and if marketers and endorsers will pursue the 24-year-old.
Darren Rovell of ESPN spoke to several marketing experts as well as Sam's agents. The interest in Sam is likely to be intense, as the LGBT community is a valuable and untapped demographic for advertisers and companies over the last few years have become more comfortable with openly gay spokespeople.
"We told him that there is going to be a storm of people and companies that are going to want to get a piece," Joe Barkett, whose firm Empire Athletes represents Sam, told Rovell. "He has a willingness to do deals, but that's obviously not what drove this."
Barkett told Rovell that Sam will likely sign a shoe and apparel deal and perhaps a second deal in the coming weeks. After that he'll focus on preparing for the NFL Combine and his pro day.
As Rovell suggests, it appears Nike could have the inside track on signing Sam. Not only does Nike outfit two of the more high profile athletes to come out over the past year -- Jason Collins and Brittney Griner -- it has a strong partnership with the LGBT Sports Coalition, which works to end discrimination of sexual orientation in sports.
Ultimately, experts agreed, Sam's on-field performance will determine how many and what types of endorsement offers he'll receive.
"It's amazing and courageous what he's done, but I don't think it's necessarily going to shoot him to marketing stardom," Ryan Williams, director of marketing for Athletes First, told Rovell. "He'll get more speaking opportunities and maybe an eventual book deal, but the real money will most likely come only if he plays well on the field."
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