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Michael Sam drafted by St. Louis Rams at No. 249

NEW YORK -- Three months ago, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became one of America's most discussed sports figures after announcing that he planned to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

On Saturday, he was given that chance by the Rams.

St. Louis used its seventh-round pick at No. 249 overall to select the celebrated Tigers defender on Day 3 of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver that the team has been thinking about this for a while.

"We were very fortunate to have the supplemental choices," Fisher said on NFL Network. "You use those for players you want to give an opportunity to, that you think that you want to draft. I haven't said a whole lot to anybody over the last week or so but after doing the studies, good football player."

All-Pro defensive end and new teammate Robert Quinn echoed Fisher's sentiment, saying "he's proven himself on the field, and that's all we're worried about."

Even President Barack Obama sent his congratulations.

"The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation's journey. From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are," a White House official said in a email to ABC News.

ESPN's cameras showed an emotional Sam as he got the news. It was a beautiful moment, like so many other shots this week of drafted players realizing their dreams. 

Last year's SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year was no lock to be picked, but the Rams like Sam's promise as a pass rusher after he piled up 11.5 sacks during his senior campaign at Mizzou. He joins a loaded Rams defensive line.

Players and coaches league-wide have talked about Sam's sexual orientation as a non-issue. The NFL is ready for this, and Fisher doesn't foresee any concerns with Sam dealing with issues from teammates.

"I don't have any concern whatsoever, Rich, I think you've known me long enough. We drafted a good football player," Fisher said. "I'm excited to get him on the practice field and get him going so yeah, there's gonna be a little extra tension for a couple days, but Michael was the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

"That's important to us," Fisher added. "Looking forward to this opportunity, we have a young team, a very mature team, and certainly not going to let (there be) any kind of distractions, just practice football."

Praised as a high-motor defender with good anticipation, Sam has been knocked for his size. At 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, he's small for a prototypical end at the pro level. What coaches and scouts love is Sam's intensity and drive, which have brought him this far.

Sam should be judged for his game film, not his personal life. St. Louis has set the table for Sam to be remembered as a trailblazer.

*The "Around The League Podcast" wraps up the draft by picking our winners and losers. *

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