Missouri football All-American Michael Sam says he is gay, and because he is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick, the defensive end could become the league's first openly homosexual player.
In interviews published Sunday with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports, Sam says he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.
"I am an openly, proud gay man," he said.
The 255-pound Sam participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month after leading the Southeastern Conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19), and has attracted the attention of National Football League scouts.
"It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL," he said in the interviews.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," the NFL said in statement. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."