As most of an anxious final round passed without his name being called, the Rams selected Missouri defensive end Michael Sam with the 249th pick in the NFL Draft, making him the first openly gay player on an NFL roster.
That Sam was taken with a compensatory pick – the seventh to last – in the final round of the draft will be seen as proof of him falling further than he should have gone. On one hand, it’s fair to be suspicious of NFL teams keeping up a long history of homophobia. On the other, the matter of saying when a player should be drafted is always a problematic statement. On Twitter, there was incredulity that an SEC defensive player of the league fell into the 7th round without being picked. Meanwhile, Jackson Jeffcoat, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year out of Texas went undrafted.
ESPN posted up at a sports bar in West Hollywood with people watching to see whether Sam would get picked, though it’s hard to say how much of that crowd surfaced just because ESPN made it known that they would be there. ESPN, however, also got footage of Sam’s emotional reaction to being drafted, followed by a kiss with his boyfriend.
To NFL Network’s credit, they never shied away from the subject of Sam being drafted, even when it was in doubt whether he would be picked at all. Even if it made for the uneasy atmosphere of Mike Mayock having to defend the drafting process.
For now, Sam has been drafted and is assured of at least a chance to make an NFL team. As a seventh round pick, he’s still far from assured from making the Rams. Some were saying as the 7th round went by that Sam might even have been in better position being an undrafted free agent with his choice of teams than being selected that late in the draft. From a symbolism standpoint, the fact that Sam was drafted is important. Hopefully he gets a chance to do other important things in the NFL.