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NFL Nation Says: Michael Sam's reception

5/16/2014

Michael Sam became a part of NFL history on Saturday when the St. Louis Rams used the 249th overall choice in the 2014 NFL draft to make the defensive end the first openly gay player to be drafted.

"Let me tell you something, if we were playing the Vikings right now, I'd probably have three sacks the first game," Sam said. "Since February and my big announcement, this has been a whole [lot of] speculation of the first openly gay football player. But you know what? It's not about that. It's about playing football."

As Sam attempts to blaze a trail as the first openly gay athlete to compete in the NFL, it's expected that his journey could hit rough spots and cause consternation among peers. We asked several Hall of Famers before last week's draft about Sam and how he might be received in an NFL locker room.

Some pondered the unknown, while Redskins Hall of Fame running back Bobby Mitchell even said that Sam could be subject to harsh remarks from “some nut.” Having played in a vastly different NFL from the one we see today, most of the Hall of Famers expect Sam to be embraced by teammates and peers around the league. Ultimately, it’s about what Sam brings to the team as a player, not his personal relationships outside the locker room, according to the Hall of Famers.

“I’m not saying some nut over in the corner just wanting to be an ass won’t say something,” Mitchell said. “You know how crazy we athletes are. And I know it was tough for him [to reveal his sexuality] because he knows how crazy we are. It was tough for him to come out, I'm sure, because he doesn't know which faction is going to come out first. I don't think he's going to have any problem."

Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson played in the 1980s for the New York Giants with Roy Simmons, who announced he was gay after leaving the NFL. Carson considers the Sam story a nonissue and said he’s proud of the defensive end.

"We all have our lives to live and choose to live the way we want to live," Carson said. "When ballplayers get together, as long as you can play the game -- that's the thing -- if you can help the team win, we have no problem."