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Oprah Winfrey Network to air Michael Sam documentary

The Oprah Winfrey Network will broadcast a documentary series on St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam's efforts to make the team as the NFL's first openly gay player.

Sam was chosen in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday with the No. 249 overall pick.

"We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history, but will shape it forever," Winfrey said in a prepared statement. "I am proud of the focus on authentic storytelling in our new documentary series format. The next real-life story we follow in 'The Untitled Michael Sam Project' promises to spark valuable, important discussion on life in America today. Acceptance and illumination start here."

The release from OWN did not indicate when the series would launch. Sam, for his part, said his focus will remain on football and making the Rams roster. That won't be easy, with two of the NFL's better defensive ends -- Robert Quinn and Chris Long -- already in place at his position. The Rams, meanwhile, had no knowledge of the reality show when they selected Sam in the 2014 NFL Draft, NFL Media's Albert Breer reported.

"Like every player out there working to make a team right now, my focus is on playing football to the very best of my ability," Sam said. "I am determined. And if seeing my story helps somebody else accept who they are and to go for their dreams too, that's great. I am thankful to Oprah for her support and excited to work together."

Sam told the Missouri football team he is gay last August during a team-building exercise at fall camp, but the news did not become public until Sam announced it in the weeks between his appearance at the Reese's Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Speculation on his draft status ranged from the fourth round to undrafted, but he ultimately became the league's first openly gay draftee with seven picks left.

Since then, Sam jerseys have been in great demand, with sales numbers ranking second among NFL rookies, even topping those of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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