On Monday night, Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay, but that raised a key question among some NFL fans.
Shouldn’t that title belong to Michael Sam?
Michael Sam, don’t let Carl Nassib steal your glitter, you were here first
– Carlos Jaime II (@CJDeuce_) June 21, 2021
In many ways, Sam helped pave the way for Nassib. Sam’s NFL career was short-lived, but his impact as a pioneer in the LGBTQ + community cannot be denied.
Here’s a look at Sam’s journey in the NFL and the interview that made him a household name.
MORE: NFL Players, Owners React to Carl Nassib’s Departure
When did Michael Sam come out?
Sam came out ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft after his senior season in Missouri. Before the draft, Sam wanted to make his sexuality public, and this was revealed in interviews he did with the New York Times and ESPN.
“I am an openly proud gay man,” Sam said, according to NFL.com.
“I understand how big this is. It’s a great thing. No one has done this before. And it’s a bit of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”
The interview was posted on February 9, 2014, but Sam had told teammates L’Damian Washington and Marvin Foster about his sexual orientation a year earlier.
Who is Michael Sam’s first openly gay player in the NFL?
Michael Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft and competed for a spot on the Rams’ 53-man roster.
However, ultimately, he was not part of the Rams team and never played during the regular season. He spent time on the Cowboys practice team in 2014 and in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes in 2015. He retired from professional soccer midway through the 2015 CFL season and has not played soccer since.
MORE: Derek Carr Says He Would Rather ‘Quit Soccer’ Than Play For A Team Other Than The Raiders
Why is Carl Nassib considered the first active gay player in the NFL?
The answer to this is a bit technical. Carl Nassib is officially the first ACTIVE NFL player to come out gay. Which means Nassib has played in the NFL and been on a team’s active roster.
Although Sam was selected by the Rams, he was never on their 53-man roster. He also didn’t make it in the Cowboys’ 53-man unit. As such, he was just one part of the offseason 90-man roster that doesn’t count as the active roster.
So, to summarize, Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. Nassib is the first active player in the NFL, who has been on a 53-man roster, has played through the regular season and is still playing, to come out as gay.
Timeline of Michael Sam’s career with the Missouri, Rams, Cowboys and Alouettes
Dec 19, 2013 – Sam is named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year along with CJ Mosley (Alabama).
January 3, 2014 – Sam plays his final game at Missouri and makes a sack and fumble returned for a TD in the Tigers’ win over Oklahoma State. He finished his senior season with 10 sacks.
February 9, 2014 – Sam officially announces that he is gay in interviews with the New York Times and ESPN.
February 19, 2014 – Sam participates in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine; He is 6-2,261 pounds, runs a 4.91-second, 40-yard dash.
May 10, 2014 – The Rams select Sam with the 249th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Sam is the eighth and final player selected.
August 8, 2014 – Sam makes his NFL preseason debut. You notch a tackle against Saints.
August 28, 2014 – NFL preseason ends. Sam finishes with 11 tackles and three sacks.
August 30, 2014 – Sam is cut by the Rams after undrafted free agent Ethan Westbrooks defeats him for a roster spot.
September 3, 2014 – The Cowboys sign Sam into their practice squad.
Oct. September 21, 2014 – Dallas releases Sam from his practice squad to sign linebacker Troy Davis.
March 22, 2015 – Sam participates in the inaugural NFL Veterans Combine. He runs a 4.99-second, 40-yard run and remains unsigned.
May 22, 2015 – The Montreal Alouettes sign Sam for two years. He becomes the CFL’s first openly gay player.
June 12, 2015 – Sam leaves the Alouettes for “personal reasons” and is placed on the suspended list.
June 26, 2015 – Sam returns to the Alouettes and begins practicing with the team.
August 7, 2015 – Sam plays for the first time, but does not record an inning against the Ottawa Redblacks. It would be the only game he would play in the CFL.
August 14, 2015 – Sam retires from professional soccer. Sam writes on Twitter:
“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I started to worry about my mental health. That is why I am going to walk away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope I will be back on the field soon. Thank you all for your understanding and support. “