INDIANAPOLIS -- As the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect, Michael Sam will deliver his best efforts at the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend to help his goal of being drafted in May. But once that goal is attained, his next goal might be to gain more attention for his play than for his sexual orientation.
"Well, heck yeah, I just wish you would just say, 'Hey, Michael Sam, how's football going?' I would love to give the answer to that question. But it is what it is. I just wish you guys will see me as Michael Sam the football player, instead of as Michael Sam the gay football player," he said.
The media contingent on hand Saturday around Sam, who announced he is gay a couple of weeks ago, dwarfed that of any other prospect, including surefire first-round picks Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney. And with that, a prospect whose best-case scenario, according to NFL Media analysts, would be to be chosen in the third round, and in a worst case might face mounting disappointment as the draft nears a Day 3 end, gave a command performance in taking on some of the toughest questions asked at the combine.
A few highlights from the exchange:
On whether he has heard slurs in locker rooms before: "I've been in locker rooms where all kinds of slurs have been said. I don't think anyone means it. It's a little naive and uneducated, but as time goes on, everyone will adapt."
On the show of support he received from Missouri fans and students at a recent Mizzou basketball game: "I love my fans, I love Mizzou, one of the best schools in the nation. After what they did this past weekend, it was just amazing. I wanted to cry, but I'm like, 'I'm a man." (laughter)
On if his Missouri teammates joked with him about his sexuality: "Everyone would be normal around me. If they wanted to joke around, it's a brotherhood, it's a family. We can say things to each other. No harm. We don't draw blood. It's all fun and games."
On how he would handle harassment in the locker room: "If someone wants to call me a name, I'll have a conversation with that guy, and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."
On whether his sexual orientation will impact his draft status: "I am not a GM. I do not have control over my draft status. All I can control is me preparing myself to put the best scores (combine results) out there."
On whether he feels like a trailblazer: "I feel like I'm Michael Sam."