Programming note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco is on the ground in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his coverage all weekend and get the full report on SportsNet Central every night at 6 and 10:30 p.m.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Good afternoon, my name is Michael Sam.
I play football for the University of Missouri. As you know, Missouri is the Show Me State, and you’d think I showed you guys enough these past couple of weeks. But I’m learning with the media that you still want more.
So ask your questions, and I’ll answer them as best I can.
And with that, pass-rusher Michael Sam addressed the topic of his quest to become the first openly gay player in NFL history for the first time since announcing his sexual orientation two weeks ago.
"I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam, the football player; not Michael Sam, the gay football player,” Sam said to a packed gathering of media at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Sam stepped up to the microphone to face dozens of cameras and hundreds of media members. He wore a pullover with “DL 42” emblazoned on it to identify him among defensive linemen. The number reflects an alphabetical listing of every player among his position group.
He also wore a small rainbow-colored button with the message, “Staying with Sam.” He received a standing ovation last Saturday when his picture was shown on an arena video board during Missouri’s basketball game against Tennessee.
“A very kind lady gave it (the button) to me and I gave her a hug,” Sam said. “I have a lot of support out there.”
Sam revealed his sexual orientation to his Missouri teammates in the preseason last year. He said he wanted to control the story by making the announcement on his own terms. That is why he went public with his private life before the Scouting Combine.
“A good portion of the student body knew, so word did get out,” he said. “We protect one another at Mizzou, apparently. Other schools don’t.”
Sam appeared to fit in on and off the field. Missouri teammate, Kony Ealy, a fellow defensive end, describes Sam as someone who always singing and fun to be around.
Sam also provided high contributions to a Missouri team that finished 12-2 with a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
He recorded 11.5 sacks and his teammates voted him as Missouri’s most valuable player. He was co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC and was selected as an Associated Press first-team All-American.
“I’m a pass rusher,” he said. “So if you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback.”
Sam said he has not fielded any questions from NFL teams about his sexuality. Many coaches and executives said this week that they don’t believe Sam will have any problem fitting into an NFL locker room. It's uncertain where he will be drafted. Most draft observers agree he could be selected in at any point beginning with the third round of the draft, which is scheduled for May 8-10.
And Sam certainly did not seem to have any complications with his Missouri teammates.
“Everyone can be normal around me if they wanted to,” he said. “We joke around because it’s a brotherhood. It’s a family. We don’t draw blood. It’s all fun and games.”
And if anything ever happened, he said, he would address it right away.
“If someone wants to call me a name, I’ll have a conversation with that guy and hopefully it won’t lead to anything else,” Sam said.
Above all else, Sam said he wants to get back to concentrating on football. That has been his focus since his announcement. Sam said he has gone MIA the past two weeks with his sole focus on working out in preparation for the Combine.
After several minutes of questions, one media member said he had a football question.
Sam responded, excitedly, “Hey, there you go!”