Michael Sam will be an NFL draft pick. Maybe he will be a first-round pick. Maybe he will be a second-, third- or fourth-round pick. Maybe he will drop down to the fifth, sixth or seventh round. (ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects Sam to go in the fourth.)
Maybe his draft stock drops after his coming out as potentially the first openly gay player to ever play on an NFL roster.
This is not important. It does not matter where Michael Sam will be drafted. He will be drafted. And he will be on an NFL roster next fall.
And he is gay.
Michael Sam is in the driver's seat. In 2013, he was a first-team All-American and the defensive player of the year in the SEC, college football's deepest conference. He was selected Missouri's team MVP by his teammates, who, oh by the way, knew he was gay.
At the point in the draft when Michael Sam is the best player available, whenever that may be, a team will have to draft him.
When NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first active male professional athlete on a North American sports team to come out last April, he was a deep bench player past his prime. He has not played a game since his announcement.
Sam is different. He is on the other side. He has not started his professional career. As an NFL player, his full potential is ahead of him.
It would be foolish to assume Sam is the only homosexual football player, past or present, in the NFL or in NCAA FBS football. It is a testament to growing liberalism in sports and society that Sam had already come out to his Missouri teammates and coaches. It speaks volumes to the comfort athletes have in their locker rooms and huddles.
For Sam, the dude must have felt comfortable. His focus was enough to make him defensive leader of the SEC East champion and 12-2 Cotton Bowl Classic champion. Those 11.5 sacks did not come from a guy keeping his sexuality bottled up.
Sam's announcement comes after society has endured chances to learn from such instances.
When retired NBA player John Amaechi came out in 2007, Tim Hardaway said, "I wouldn't want him on my team."
During last year's Super Bowl when Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo advocated same-sex marriage, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver reacted in the opposite light. On the topic of potential homosexuals on NFL rosters, Culliver said, "No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do."
When Collins came out last April, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace was the critic. "All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH...," he first tweeted.
"I'm not bashing anybody don't have anything against anyone I just don't understand it," he followed up.
Before the official announcement, Sam had two sides to deal with. In Columbia, his teammates and coaches accepted his sexuality. They treated him equally and respected his decision to wait on coming out publicly until he felt comfortable. On the other side, reports say journalists and scouts pressed Sam's agents with questions about his sexuality.
Again, Sam is in the driver's seat. Journalists and agents can say what they want. Sam is gay and he is an NFL-caliber player. Barring injury, Sam will be on an NFL roster next season.
Unlike potential gay NFL prospects on the fringe of the big leagues, Sam is pro-ready. This is what gives him the ability to become the first publicly gay NFL player. It allows him to open the gates.
It is especially interesting this announcement comes in the wake of two different stories. First, and most obvious, the Olympics are currently taking place in Russia, a nation with an anti-gay law. Whether he meant to time it this way or not, Sam's announcement is a loud shot at Russia and the rest of the world.
Thousands of miles away, Sam is having his Tommie Smith-John Carlos moment for homosexual professional athletes around the world. Sam is earning an extra dose of respect for making his announcement in advance of the NFL draft combine.
Second, Sam's tale comes one month after the publication of Grantland's Dr. V's Magical Putter feature, written by Caleb Hannan. The story is under particular fire for Hannan outing the identity of Essay Anne Vanderbilt (Dr. V) as a transgender individual to one of her investors. Vanderbilt committed suicide before the piece was published.
In Sam's case, his Missouri teammates and coaches acted responsibility by keeping his identity under wraps despite a late push by journalists and scouts. When Sam felt it was appropriate to make the announcement (after the season, before the draft, and possibly during the Olympics), he came out.
It is speculated Sam will receive backlash from teammates and opponents in the NFL. At Missouri, he lived and trained with his teammates and coaches nearly every day for five years. He was a young man who found a group of individuals he felt comfortable sharing secrets with. On the NFL level, he will join a locker room of a few dozen strangers and take on opponents in the heat of battle every Sunday.
Do not fear for Michael Sam. He will have a support group. Do not worry. Sam is about to gain one of the largest individuals fan followings in sports history. The LGBT community, gay-rights activists and the growing number of live-and-let-live Americans are going to jump on Sam's bandwagon.
For every opponent who spits a gay slur at Michael Sam, there will be two signs in the crowd praising Sam's plight. The only thing these fans will spit is equality. Stadiums are going to go wild for Sam. He will see gay rights flags in every stadium he plays in.
After the NFL draft, Johnny Manziel and Jadaveon Clowney jerseys will sell. Do not be surprised if Michael Sam jerseys are just as prevalent. He is about to open the closet door for homosexual athletes everywhere in the world on all levels of all sports. He could become the modern-day Jackie Robinson, someone remembered for breaking barriers.
There is no excuse and there is no turning back. Michael Sam has the NFL, the sports world, the country and the globe right where he wants it. The United States' most popular league is about to have its first openly gay player.
And there is nothing anyone can do about it. We all will sit back and watch. It is going to be exciting.
The first domino has fallen.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.
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