Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SEC [Print without images]

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Michael Sam wins Arthur Ashe Award

By Edward Aschoff


It has been a special few months for former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, and on Wednesday, he received a very special honor when he was selected as the winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

The reigning SEC defensive player of the year announced that he's gay following the 2013 season and has a chance to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. Sam, who could be drafted in this week's NFL draft, will receive the award, which is given to individuals who transcend sports, at the 2014 ESPYs on July 16.

Michael Sam
With his NFL career on the verge of starting, Michael Sam's is being honored for his courage.
Here's what executive producer of the ESPYs, Maura Mandt said about Sam winning the award:
"In deciding to give Michael this honor, while his courageous act of coming out is a part of it, the story is about the life he led growing up. A man who has consistently lived his life with integrity is never afraid of living this truth."

It's only fitting that Sam be named this year's recipient of such a special award. It took a lot of courage for him to come out publicly in the first place with him being such a high-profile player last season. The strength to come out before even having a job in the NFL locked up was tremendous as well. It also took a lot for him to come out to his teammates and coaches before last season. That certainly couldn't have been easy with the thought of the locker room pushing him away after his announcement.

But it didn't. The Tigers actually got closer.

A year after a 5-7 debut in the SEC, the Tigers won the SEC Eastern Division crown, going 12-2 on the season.

Sam broke a huge barrier within his own locker room, and is now hoping to break a major one in the NFL while inspiring others at the same time.

"I just feel like, you know, because I came out, was the first one to do it -- I think I can be a beacon for others, young athletes ... who are maybe gay or maybe not," Sam said in an interview with ABC's 'Good Morning America' on Tuesday. "And I think I could be a beacon for these people -- a light that, like, 'Hey, I could be comfortable in my own skin and be like Michael Sam.'"