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Michael Sam, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, came out as gay tonight in interviews with ESPN and The New York Times.

Simply put, "I am an openly, proud gay man," the former Missouri defensive end say, adding:

"I understand how big this is. It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL."

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Assuming Sam is drafted in May, he will accomplish this goal, becoming the first open homosexual to play professionally in America.


"I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me," Sam said. "I want to own my truth. … No one else should tell my story but me."

Sam also said that his Missouri coaches and teammates have known about his sexuality since August.

What was it like to come out to those around him at that time?

"I was kind of scared, even though they already knew," he said. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from Day One. I couldn’t have better teammates. … I’m telling you what: I wouldn’t have the strength to do this today if I didn’t know how much support they’d given me this past semester."

Last year, Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to admit he is gay.

Considering his tough past in Texas – Sam saw his brother get shot; had an infant sister pass away; and has two other brothers in prison – the aspiring pro says "telling the world I’m gay is nothing compared to that."

And he’s prepared to his life to change as a result of the announcement.

"I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay," he said to conclude his ESPN interview. "I’m comfortable in my skin."