The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 12, 2014

Sam broke a barrier, won’t likely be a star

ENID, Okla. — It has happened.

On Saturday, in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft, defensive end Michael Sam of Missouri was chosen by the St. Louis Rams, thus becoming the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

The earth did not shatter, the sun did not fail to shine, the stars did not tumble from the heavens.

The Rams have vaulted to a 50-1 shot to win next year’s Super Bowl, up from 55-1.

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with Sam’s ability, or his sexuality.

Sam was the 249th overall pick of the Rams. In the seventh round, teams are reaching, hoping to find a player who can at least become a contributor.

Sam had a poor showing at the NFL’s draft combine in February, running a 4.91 40-yard dash and bench-pressing 225 pounds only 17 times, one of the lowest figures posted by defensive line prospects.

He is what coaches call a “tweener,” not quite big enough, fast enough or strong enough to be considered a sure-fire NFL player or to fit in a certain position.

So Sam may or may not wind up on the Rams’ roster when training camp ends and the regular season begins next fall.

Thus, he may not go down in NFL history as the best 249th draft choice ever.

Regardless, Sam may go down as the most famous 249th NFL draft choice ever. Not surprisingly, Johnny Manziel’s Cleveland Browns jersey was the top seller over the weekend among those of the new draft choices, while Sam’s was No. 2, ahead of those of overall No. 1 draft choice Jadeveon Clowney.

The 249th player chosen in the 2013 NFL draft was Duke quarterback Sean Renfree. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Renfree. The sum total of his NFL experience thus far is his appearance in three preseason games for the Atlanta Falcons last year, during which he completed 25 of 52 passes for 82 yards. He was hurt in the Falcons’ final preseason game and sat out the year on injured reserve. He is expected to compete for a roster spot this fall.

The 249th player taken in the 2012 NFL draft, also by the Falcons, was defensive tackle Travian Robertson of South Carolina. In two seasons, he has appeared in 12 games and has made four tackles. He remains under contract to Atlanta.

The point being, the Rams do not expect Michael Sam to become a star. They don’t even expect him to be a starter. Players drafted 249th are generally bit players, at best, in the extravagant production that is an NFL football team.

The 249th pick in the 2011 NFL draft was DeMarco Sampson, a receiver from San Diego State, chosen by Arizona. Sampson lasted two seasons with the Cardinals, then signed with the Buffalo Bills in May of 2013, and was cut in August. In January of this year he was assigned to the Los Angeles Kiss of the Arena Football League, before signing a free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers. He has three career NFL receptions for 36 yards.

Michael Sam broke a barrier by becoming the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL. But it is unlikely he will become the NFL’s first openly gay star.

By the time that player comes along, whoever he may be, perhaps the fact he is gay will no longer be news.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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