Openly Gay Football Player Expected to be Picked in NFL Draft

Speculation has started over how NFL culture will react to Michael Sam's entry into the professional league.
3:00 | 02/10/14

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Transcript for Openly Gay Football Player Expected to be Picked in NFL Draft
This is a special room. I'm Michelle Franzen in New York with this ABC news digital report. Remember the name Michael Sam because he's on the verge of making history. Sam played defensive end at the University of Missouri he led the highly competitive SEC conference in sacks this past season. He's a top level draft prospect and he's just about come out as -- he's just come out as gay should -- make the pro team Michael Sam will be the first. Openly gay player in the NFL ABC's Devin Dwyer joins us now with more DeVon. He Michelle that bombshell announcements and -- some shock waves through the football world today reaction. Has been pouring in all afternoon including from First Lady Michelle Obama who called him an inspiration. I am a gay man and a happy to be one University of Missouri defensive end Michael SanDisk out of the closet admission. What it might mean for pro football I want to be. And felt. All that I'm understand. How big this is because it's a big deal. Never before has an openly gay man played in the NFL but -- is poised to break that barrier during the league's draft. The 24 year old listening to the all American team and was the southeast conference -- defensive player of the year. He also helped carry his tigers to the conference championship game. He did all of that is an openly gay player after coming out to teammates and targets sample ESPN's outside the lines that it was now time to tell the world. I was afraid that someone would so or leaks -- -- out about me -- or tell a story. I just want to control the situation and tell my story. Reaction to Saddam's announcement has been mostly positive winning praise from fans and current NFL stars Carolina Panthers running back De'Angelo Williams -- it. I could care less about a man's sexual preference I care about winning games and being respectful and the locker room. But analysts say that's precisely where the trouble might be of Sam gets drafted. The NFL is known for its macho and sometimes homophobic culture hope. -- Players we've seen that. They don't just -- by. Because I'm gay they see hate this is dispersal works hard can he win those games can win -- a championship with I can I can't. Now that's a message that Michael Sam wants the owner in coaches at his future team -- potential future team to hear loud and clear analysts. Saying that he could be picked in the third to fifth rounds of the NFL draft later this year Michelle. DeVon thank you very much and we are joined now by the former NFL star and head coach ESPN's Herm Edwards. -- thank you very much for joining us. Do you expect -- draft status to be significantly. Hurt by his decision to come out publicly or will there be an impact at all. -- I really don't I think him. Nelson is openly gay player. Takes a lot of pressure off awful really -- both parties in other words -- self. As well as the organization. There had been rumors. Before and I think the way Missouri handled this situation. You have to commend them -- to head coach and the players and now you know his draft status is his draft status and obviously he's going to be -- now. From here to become mine and from there on he will get selected in the draft -- I will say this. -- 32 teams all feel the same way about have been openly gay player -- football team. Probably not because with that comes the media attention the media blitz but he's going to bring to your locker -- so I think. This is what owners and obviously hit coaches and GMs are discussing. -- our locker room ready for this but not only that is -- ready for this he's got to be on -- national stage work. Every syndication every publication is -- -- have interview with him. In before you know what. He's in an interview process -- all the time rather than -- of football he's here to play football that's as prime objective. But there's also will be -- media attention attached to him when he arrives. -- -- that's right you mention that the NFL com buying begins next week of course that's where these players fall under scrutiny where scalpers are able to take a good hard look. And not only with how they play but also how they handle the media. So when executives will talk when the agents we'll see them they talk about a red flag with a player they mean that there's an issue with that player and what will be the concerns in this case. What this is not so much a red flag on him far be it openly gay player I mean we live in -- society. We're work -- people or are part of our community if this this is nothing new I just think because he's a football player we put all old now what's gonna happen. While the National Football League hopefully. Is going to be able to deal with this if not -- will be very disappointed. Is far as the G-8 ounce hit coaches players. Is -- -- the new hope is new it's it's. He's admitted that -- openly gay on the football -- I wanna play in the national football only one they'll be questions yes they'll be questions and the -- go to ball out of this quite frankly. What type of player is. Is he worthy enough frost and draft the whatever slop over to drafting that it is how does he -- and help our football team. I think term the other red flag meaning what sort of media exposure that he will bring to any team that may choose him and who he chooses. Well you're right in that's a -- the look at this what he's got to get as much attention as a first round pick. Up in the fourth player picked in the draft it's a lot of attention we know we've seen it year after year when you're the first player picketed draft the media the media attention that guy gets -- warts and obviously dollars and this guy's not -- first round pick. But because. He's come out and I'm an openly gay football player he's gonna get that say imitation may be even more. And this is that I'm slot which -- gonna happen deal with -- -- you're. -- your PR guy you're gonna have to make sure you sit down with this young man and make him realize you cant do every interview you'll be exhausted. You'll have to pick and choose -- and usually you would like to do -- your main objective here is to make the football team dealt with players in the locker room. That at first. They'll be some players are culpable adult not a bottom not say all clear as the -- -- -- thwart but I think the locker rooms about acceptance. And an -- lot of work environment is most coaches understand that they make sure there's a veteran presence in -- and they understand this guy's coming to help us win football games. And that's what I was going to touch upon next is you know you've got the front office the team so to speak but what about the locker room the players and how they will. Be able to accept him. Well I'll tell you this the Miami situation. Was -- will what was what was was badly handled. By both parties. -- is as well as players we'll never get to the bottom of it. But it was handled -- think about this 32 teams. -- this there was only one team. It says cyber contracts as I can recall in his long and I've been in his late thirty years. That that situation blow -- into proportions it blew up to this season we witnessed. That is not the -- and locker rooms. -- I think there will be some -- yet. -- guys feel a little bit nervous about what to say yes but as they grow accustomed to his personality who he is and how we intertwined -- guys. The guard comes down got will be more lose it's really about. -- guys respect and earned in the copper so I'll be at around. Openly gay player I think most players except that there's always if you want to lock all -- -- culpable in the beginning but at the end it's about the team. And -- what would you say. Hey you know how Missouri handle it of course is Michael -- coming out to his teammates last year and -- tell us a little bit of about how they handled it and what that says. Well they get a plus really it started to head coach in the players it's -- -- -- does this college football player. In an environment where it -- in college I mean people are young. People say a lot of things at times when -- did little lower with -- say those type things I think this team has the blueprint if -- head coach or GM. If you're considering drafting this young man. You better believe that got a call your -- Call him and asking me what he announced -- -- the team what was the reaction was there anything you need to do that these questions they hit -- gonna get easily -- through. And by the way. Had a great season that's up. It is the football player so you know we think we -- all the -- we want at the end a bond with coats on Saturday -- legal -- quarterback. And it -- in the end about playing football right a little bit off topic Eminem -- really is towards us a little bit but can you explain to our viewers something else remarkable about. -- Sam's something in his own name and how it relates to the likely position as an NFL linebacker. Well I think the guys unique talent in the fact that. He plays 34 defense is outside linebacker. Was -- VP and SEC that's there's a lot about what type football players got -- and I think a lot of players. I was watching some stores -- one of his roommate says once he finally admitted to the -- it took the burden off hill. He became a better player and so now and he's -- that the fact that hey I'm openly gay -- football player in you know what. I'm OK with me and I think that's -- the most important thing in what he has the locker room guess what he's -- -- -- And the rest those guys better be OK with their selves because he's all right would leave. ESPN's Herm Edwards former coach of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs thank you very much for joining us and offering this perspective. And joining us now via Skype is -- Ziegler co-founder and editor of Al sports dot com. As well as -- Weiss who represents Michael Sam threw his agency empire athletes. -- I'm going to start with you what was your reaction when you were told that Michael Sam was going to come out publicly. Static we've been waiting for something like this for so long I've said for years that -- and a well. All at every level and sports across America ready for gay athletes to be out on the field the court and in the -- wrong. It's been my experience. Covering its -- for fifteen years everyone of them are graced -- -- -- it. And it's great to see somebody like Michael. Howard finally stepped at all -- -- out there about this. And say I know the truth is and and I'm gonna show everybody -- adults that it's okay. And camera and it was very important for Michael Sam to have his message out there in a way that. Was so palatable for the public can also -- -- can you explain a little bit about how Sam approached you. For this announcement. Just. You know it was really a team decision and Mike. Wanted to be yielded to get this out of the way and I have to saddle the team with PR nightmare -- the eleventh hour so. We we put our heads together we decided this was a good time and we let Michael -- truth. So working in this unchartered territory the timing of the announcement seems pretty deliberate or well timed out for two reason it seems. Here is Michael -- explaining why he chose to announce he's gay at this moment. I was -- -- -- you know the owners and the coast of the GM about my sexuality and it. Knowing two weeks ago -- how many people actually knew we expected that all the scouts -- and and because I did make it public to my team and then once scouts came and asked about me. You know they told about -- exams game. And I didn't know how many media actually -- And I was afraid that it will leak out without me actually -- much -- I -- to let the world know and tell them that hey I'm -- -- -- -- And Cameron back to you again you do you said that there you didn't want a weekend -- those concerns that you wanted to make the announcement before the com by next week. Explain the reasoning behind that. You know we went down to mobile to the Senior Bowl and it was just such common knowledge because like we said. This was never secret Mike has -- an openly gay individual for sometime now. And it's more about it just you know being public and. Cannot be able to control his own message so that's that's exactly what -- was where was of course the com mine is the annual event where draft hopefuls. Show off their skills to scouts -- what kind of microscope -- he can go through now. At this year's combine. Everyone talks about -- added attention in the media circus and all distraction that gay -- going to be. Why you're in the -- -- the -- buying. Is he might gross -- we're talking about it today on an already guys Rich Gannon. Every inch of your body and your life is home builder. And a -- com. Whether you're gay or straight black or white Christian -- it doesn't matter so people trying to make it seem like because DA is all all this. -- really and a well. They're big boys -- the biggest game in town. And with the media -- swirling around this that obviously brings more attention to this so there will be more. Exposure for Michael Sam next week just heading into this beyond his skills. Out on the field -- scouts watched. -- is going to be more added attention but again they're professionals. You know. In the pros use attention -- try to do things that are going to bring you attention you want to play on the biggest stage. You hire -- wall and -- or trying to get to pursue all. So somebody -- -- a few extra question. Dating somebody or how told his mom these gay. How is that going rules that anything that has to do with him playing -- or the people he's around it just doesn't make sense. They wrote a lengthy article sit on this out sports and took this photo Michael with advocates for equality. And certainly can you explain that photo. Yeah it's you know Howard Bragman who -- it Cameron. As work -- -- for the last couple weeks you don't you want to bring together some some structure. Also on Saturday. Invited on to people who paved the way -- -- out the -- myself and -- in sports. -- -- Dinner and just to show Michael that we support and so wade Davis and don't believe being. Odd and difficult pay lower former special tour -- and then press -- and read the lamb did you work straight -- -- and order and it was it was our dinner at the center really clear message to Michael let. We we have his back. A camera and some were expecting Michael -- to go as early as the third round do you think that's still likely. I do I do I think that you know this shouldn't affect his draft stock at all in fact it. If anything -- prove -- because they sees a man of integrity. And you know I really want to say that one time in this country sports were the most progressive part of society. And if he were to fall because he's gay I feel like it would be a sad moment for -- -- because it would truly show that sports have fallen behind the curve. Well so far the NFL has had this to say when -- show you quote a statement that they've -- we admire Michael's -- honesty and courage. Michael is a football player any player with. Ability and determination can succeed in the NFL we look forward to welcoming -- supporting Michael -- and when he fourteen. -- it seems as though the organization is ready but are the players ready. They are they've been an incredible ally in this whole process you know we've been in communication with them. Quite some time we wanted to keep them in the -- so they weren't surprised at all by this. And ultimately you saw that -- messes support they want to embrace him and Alec they send -- state yesterday and any player who has you know determination and and has have the requisite skills is gonna make in this week. And I think camera and going to you now the University of Missouri football team -- Michael Sam played. Knew about his sexual orientation before the season and -- sand makes an NFL team do you think you'll be treated the same by pro athletes as the sort of signal. Where NFL is headed. I think certainly as you know Missouri's in the SEC they went twelve into last year the SEC is as close to -- club pro locker room. As you can find of the collegiate level and they were able to embrace him. I think that he will be at the next level beyond that I think that we all should take a moment. Really look at the situation that -- in Missouri and I think it's just huge kudos to the individuals on the team and and the program in the school as a whole for. Their treatment of the situation -- sensitivity in their support. An NBA player Jason Collins came out last April he and salmon met and Collins his -- at some kind words of encouragement praising -- courage and leadership. Quote I can't wait to cheer for what ever lucky team that drafts like Sam football personally I hope he goes to my favorite team the colts. If you look at someone like Jason Collins he came out granted it was during the end of his career. But couldn't score a new contract do you think his story sexual orientation was the reason for that or just how he -- You know I have come by and say there would. Unfortunately be nothing but conjecture Jason's a great player he's a great guy -- -- long NBA career in. If he indeed was not signed it -- in that that had anything to do his orientation that's -- truly unfortunate. And what are your concerns as you head into this unchartered territory with Michael -- You know I really. Call me an idea but I don't have a whole lot of concerns we that we have a great player here who's got broad shoulders who lives in the moment. We've got a great team in place and I do want to address one thing that -- said when he was just on with you. And that Mike's gonna be doing more interviews in preparation first come by and he's got to pick and choose the ones and he wants to do. The whole point of his doing this was to trot him out here for a for a day and then let him go back to focusing playing football in training for the com buyer for the draft so. In fact won't be doing any interviews -- -- I don't think that's going to be a concern for him. Karen -- empire -- agency in Los Angeles thank you for joining us. And earlier we spoke with said Ziegler editor of Al sports dot com posted an ESPN's Herm Edwards. You of course can get a complete recap right here on For now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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