PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — Missouri All-American Michael Sam says he is gay, and the defensive end could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL.

In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports, Sam says he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.

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Sam says: “I am an openly, proud gay man.”

The 255-pound Sam participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month after leading the SEC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19), and he is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick.

He says: “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.”

Former Penn State basketball star John Amaechi, who was the first NBA player to come out in 2007, talks about Sam coming out with 93-7 The Fan’s John Phillips (@937Phillips):

Some athletes have spoken out since Sam came out, including former Steeler Jerome Bettis, who told ESPN, “If the public is ready, I believe the locker room is ready.”

Bettis also indicated that Sam’s coming out wouldn’t be a big deal in the professional world, saying, “Ninety to 95 percent of current NFL players would welcome a gay player to a team.”

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Scott Brown of ESPN.com writes that Ryan Clark is of the opinion that if Sam is willing to be part of the team and making it better as they strive towards winning a Super Bowl, then he’d be welcomed in just like any other player would be.

Jay Binkley of Kansas City Sportsradio 610 joined John Phillips on 93.7 The FAN to give some perspective on the news and what this means for the future of the NFL.

Binkley opened by stating that Michael Sam, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, is a “tremendous player.” To questions about how this could affect a locker room, Binkley says, “There was not a tighter knit football team in the country.”

It was a also locker room that knew about Sam’s sexual orientation prior to the season.

When asked how this news could influence Sam’s draft stock, Binkley says, “The NFL is about can you play or not.”

Following the news, the NFL released a statement stating, “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage.”

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