COLUMBIA, Miss., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- According to former NFL player and current Fox Sports analyst Brendon Ayanbadejo, Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is similar to trailblazers like Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks after he publicly came out as gay prior to the upcoming NFL draft.
“We were there to celebrate his ground-breaking voyage that in many ways is similar to those of Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks -- extraordinary moments in the push for equality,” Ayanbadejo wrote in a column for Fox. “To borrow from Neil Amstrong, this is one small step for gay men and one giant leap for the LGBTQ community.”
Sam told his Missouri teammates he was gay before the 2013 season.
"I could go on campus and go around local gay bars in Columbia and not worry about anybody judging me," Sam said. "Prior to coming out, I would be in a local restaurant with my boyfriend and coaches would come in and I would feel insecure and want to sneak out."
He is projected to be selected during the first two days of the NFL draft.
"Michael Sam has raised the bar for expectations and excellence," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “(Mizzou's defensive ends) are all competitive and they want their tackles for loss. They want their sacks, and it’s a real healthy competition. But Michael, with the level he's been playing, everything's kind of changed a little bit."
The NFL draft will be held in May.
"For me, I just want to play football," Sam said. "I want to play for the team that drafts me, the team that believes in me. The team that believes in Michael Sam the football player."
A few current NFL players took to Twitter to comment about Sam’s situation.
I could care less about a man's sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) February 10, 2014
No comment but it can be a distraction in the locker room. At least he's open with it much respect!— Agent 29 (@DraytonFlorence) February 10, 2014
Good for Michael Sam. Takes courage for where he is in his career and where we are as a league. I applaud him.— Tom Crabtree (@itsCrab) February 10, 2014
[Fox Sports] [Pro Football Talk]