NFL Trailblazer Takes Campus
Strapped with a message of perseverance, former NFL player, Michael Sam, shared his emotional life story during the University at Albany’s Sexuality Month.
The Texas native took the Campus Center Ballroom stage Tuesday night to discuss how he remains positive despite the adversity he has faced both on and off the football field. Sam, 27, started pursuing football more fervently in high school when he discovered that football could be a way out of his hometown.
“A lot of people think my story began when I came out as a gay football player. That’s not true at all,” Sam said to an audience of over 400 individuals.
During his presentation Sam shared the tragedy of his childhood, his experiences with publicly coming out as gay before the 2014 NFL draft, and reflected on his life since being released from the NFL.
Sam was born in Galveston, Texas and during his presentation, “I am Michael Sam,” he intimately shared details of the abuse he faced from his older brothers during his childhood.
Once in high school, Sam began to find solace on the football field from his unstable home life.
He went on to play college football at the University of Missouri, where he began to further exploring his sexuality. Prior to the start of his sophomore year, Sam had confirmed to himself that he was different than most of his teammates. He was attracted to men.
“I was so scared because I didn’t know what to do now. Should I come out? Should I tell someone?” he said.
Originally the football player decided the best thing to do would be to wait to come out until he was done playing football like other former NFL players such as David Kopay or Wade Davis.
However, Sam then began dating a fellow Mizzou athlete, Vito Cammisano. His decision to remain closeted put tremendous stress on their relationship.
Prior to breaking up, Cammisano asked Sam who he saw when he looked in the mirror.
“I thought the person that looked back at me was just a pretender, just someone pretending to be Michael Sam,” relayed Sam.
Sam then took steps to becoming more comfortable with himself. In the summer of 2013, he attended Pride St. Louis, where he found that the LGBTQ community was accepting of him and did not care about his football player status.
With a newfound confidence, Sam had the courage to come out to his teammates at the start of his senior year of college. Ever since then Sam has worn a rainbow silicone bracelet that is imprinted with MU Pride on it.
“It was the first time I truly was Michael Sam,” he said.
On Feb. 9, 2014, Sam publicly addressed his sexuality to the sports world. His announcement came just months before the 2014 NFL Draft.
Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round. The rookie player experienced an extreme amount of media attention due to his sexuality and status as a professional football player. Even former President Barack Obama released a statement congratulating Sam.
Yet, despite all of this media attention, Sam’s NFL career was short-lived.
Sam made sure to clarify to the audience that he is not bitter over the abrupt end to his NFL career.
“I owe everything to football; football gave me an education, it taught me about discipline, it taught me how to be a man, and it opened a lot of doors for me,” Sam said. “It saved my life; I owe everything to football.”
Sam concluded his presentation by going over his healing process. He started by forgiving those who had wronged him in the past.
“I don’t know if my purpose was ever actually meant to play football, even though I want to,” he said. “But maybe it’s not meant to play football, maybe it’s to help others.”
That desire to help others was displayed at the end of the night. After the presentation, Sam remained in the ballroom until every student who asked him for a photo or to autograph an item had their request granted.