Michael Sam will probably not make it into the NFL Hall of Fame. He may not even play in a Pro Bowl or win a Super Bowl. There’s a slim chance he even wins a spot on the Rams roster this upcoming season. The one thing he will get, thanks to Jeff Fisher and Les Snead, is a chance to compete in the NFL for a job.
After 31 other NFL teams passed up Michael Sam, an openly gay man who came out publicly earlier this year at the end of the college football season, The Rams made him the 249th pick in the 2014 draft and made a statement. They weren’t going to let a man’s sexual preference keep him from being drafted by an NFL team.
Make no mistake. Sam is a helluva football player and an intriguing talent. He is an All American and was co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, one of the toughest conferences in NCAA Football. He made a lot of plays for Mizzou at defensive tackle and can really get after it on a football field. He deserves a shot at stardom and got it thanks to Fisher showing a pair of brass balls. We live in a day and age where politically correct trumps common sense and unfortunate bias and prejudice is an everyday occurrence.
I wrote a few months ago about this kid after he came out and told the world he was a proud gay man, and the story was crisp for media manipulation. Everybody thought the kid would be drafted for the simple fact that he was the first to make this leap and would be taken without a wink at his actual ability. Fast forward to Saturday night and the kid was sitting around with a handful of picks left for teams to make. It would be foolish to say the 31 other NFL teams were passing on Sam because they weren’t sure about his NFL ability. They were afraid of joining a circus or welcoming in the freak show. They didn’t want to mess with their players locker room. Those are soft ways to think about athletic talent and tells you all you need to know about coaches and general managers. For the most part, they are afraid and gutless. Fisher and Snead may not have a winning football team yet, but they have real guts and like to make bold moves.
Save me the crap shoot about Sam not having a good 40 yard dash run time. Skip informing me that he didn’t have a flashy NFL Combine session. Oh no, he didn’t run and jump well, and didn’t fake pass rush or run around well in front of the scouts in a controlled environment. The NFL Combine is a joke. Forget about it. Watch the tape of Sam terrorizing opponents like Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M and other fierce SEC rivals for Missouri. Watch the games and tell me he doesn’t deserve a shot based on ability alone. When in doubt friends, watch the tape and forget the tape measure. Real players shine on a football field in actual games.
Michael Sam will get a shot to compete for a job for the Rams. He will not be a side show pony. Fisher loves hungry defensive tackles, especially men with something to prove or get off their chest. Millions of people only know Sam’s name as the trailblazing athlete who took a stand. Sam wants people to remember him for his attributes showed on a football field. That is an exciting development for a Rams team desperately needing some positive press.
Let’s be honest. This story, win or lose, will help the Rams in the public eye where a good reputation is required if a new stadium is ever to take shape. The Rams are promoting something very special here and it can reverberate throughout the league.
If Sam manhandles his way onto the opening day roster, the city of St. Louis will embrace him and buy jerseys and wear them proud. If he fails, they will still appreciate the chance the local football team showed him. Fisher will give Sam a fair shake. The “stache” doesn’t waste picks.
I personally hope Sam makes it onto the roster. He has ability and carries accolades from his college career into the NFL. I want it for the simple memory of seeing a scene reminiscent of Rudy getting that tackle at Notre Dame and running around the field to the roar of the crowd. Sam has more ability than Rudy Ruettiger and has a better chance of lining up at least in a few preseason games. He is just another rookie fighting for a spot but one with a bigger chip on his shoulder.
I am sure when Sam was called by the Rams and picked by them, that he was silently angry at the rest of the NFL for being overlooked 248 times. In a young player, that is undeniable. When people saw Sam and his boyfriend kiss and embrace, many of them were probably disgusted. That is the unfortunate that this world contends with every single day. The inability to change as a whole will make players like Michael Sam dark knights in a harsh world.
This summer, Michael Sam takes the practice field as a St. Louis Ram and NFL hopeful. Will he take the field this fall as an official member of the team? That is left for the unknown and for now a mystery. The odds are hard to crack. The drama will be high. A new set of eyes will be on this team during training camp. HBO will call about Hard Knocks or some other kind of football series.
The St. Louis Rams didn’t pick Michael Sam to make headlines on Sunday as the sentimental story but they know exactly what they got. The Rams got a hungry young defensive tackle who is going to fight like hell to become an NFL football player and line up next to Robert Quinn and Chris Long this fall. That’s truly exciting.