St. Louis Rams draft NFL’s first openly gay player

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Michael Sam

Michael Sam was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick in the NFL draft, The Washington Post reported.

The NFL stood on the brink of a historical decision Saturday and it took until nearly the end of the draft for Michael Sam to become the first openly gay player drafted into the league.

Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri, was taken late in the seventh and final round by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick out of 256 over the three days of the draft. St. Louis is a great landing spot for him. The Rams have a stellar defense under Gregg Williams and he spent his college career just over two hours away.

Sam, filmed by ESPN as he received the phone call from Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, broke down and sobbed as he learned that he was going to the Rams.

A 24-year-old lineman from Hitchcock, Texas, Sam announced that he was gay shortly after the Super Bowl. His performance in the annual scouting combine was disappointing and many experts wondered if he would be drafted. Some questioned on Twitter just why Sam was going undrafted for so long, with only one SEC Defensive Player of the Year since 2004 not being taken among the first 33 picks in the draft. “For them not to select him would be very problematic,” Cyd Zeigler, the founder ofOutSports.com, said in a pre-draft interview with NBC News. “If he isn’t selected, it’s a public black eye on the league.”

—  Steve Ramos

Ex-TCU linebacker Vincent Pryor came out as gay to teammates before setting sack record in 1994

Seventeen years after setting a school sack record during a landmark victory over Texas Tech, ex-TCU linebacker Vincent Pryor has revealed that he came out as gay to his teammates before the game:

“I knew that at the end of this game I was going to be free. I can be who I am. I am a gay athlete who just so happens to play football. I had no regrets. Everyone knows I’m gay. … I was just at peace with myself.”

“He was a beast” on the field, said Marcus Allen, Pryor’s teammate and the team’s middle linebacker. “I do believe that once he came out of the closet, he did feel relieved. You did notice something different about him. He was always happy, he felt good about himself, he felt like didn’t have anything to hide.”

Pryor’s 4 ½ sacks still stand in the TCU record book (he shares it with David Spradlin from 1987) as do his 34 sack yards. But that’s not why Pryor’s story is worth telling. Rather, it’s his journey of acceptance as an openly gay man and athlete in our most macho sport.

Pryor now lives in Chicago with his partner, whom he met at TCU but didn’t start dating until four years after they graduated. Read the full story from Jim Buzinski at OutSports here. And watch Pryor’s video for the “It Gets Better” project below.

—  Rich Lopez