Michael Sam Speaks about His Truth, Tragedy, and Success
Michael Sam kicked off the first lecture of the Student Programming Association (SPA)’s 2017 Distinguished Speaker Series on Tuesday night. Sam talked about how he overcame tragedies and pain within his own family. He also revealed how he came to own his truth, and gained success during his football career.
Born into a family of eight in Hitchcock, Texas, Sam made history by becoming one of the first openly gay men to play in the NFL. He did an ESPN interview in February of 2014 coming out as a gay man. However, what most people don’t know is that he was already open about his sexuality to his teammates and coaches during his senior year of playing at the University of Missouri.
To own his truth and come out to the world, Sam had to overcome some very horrible tragedies within his family. His older sister died very young before he was born. His older brother Russell was shot and killed in Hitchcock when Sam was only five years old. His second oldest brother Julian went missing and was eventually declared dead in 2000.
Aside from his father abandoning his family, he had a tense relationship with his other two brothers. He said he “detested bullies” because his own flesh and blood made him live in fear when they were supposed to protect and love him. Sam adored his hardworking mother, and whenever she wasn’t at the house Sam found refuge in his school, where he began to fall in love with football by the time he prepared for college.
It was in college that Sam began to experiment things to figure out his true self. After accepting a scholarship to play at the University of Missouri, Sam said, “I was very scared because I didn’t know what to do.” Sam began finding his truth and didn’t know how to express his sexuality at the time. He decided to bury his feelings deep inside until he graduated college, because he initially didn’t plan on going to the NFL.
Remaining closeted affected his relationships with people. Sam said he was “living a lie,” and the person staring back at him in a mirror was a pretender.
During training for his last year at Mizzou, Sam came out to his teammates and his coaches. His team and his coach supported him fully.
Now prepped for professional football, Sam was primed for an early round selection in the 2014 NFL draft. He was drafted in the seventh round pick by the St. Louis Rams. There he built trust in the locker rooms with his teammates. Although the media tried to make him a distraction with his ESPN interview in February 2014, Sam focused on playing his hardest on the field. He made record-breaking plays and proved to everyone that he was worthy of respect.
After playing with the Dallas Cowboys temporarily, Sam decided to step away from football last fall. He is now using his platform to advocate for the LGBTQ community. “I will be a shield and sword for those and protect those that can’t protect themselves,” he said. His mentality is to be an example of someone who overcame various challenges in life, and still decided to be comfortable with who he is.
Throughout his life, Michael Sam experienced a lot of tragedy and pain. Despite his struggles, he owned his truth and was able to earn success by staying true to himself.