ST. LOUIS (AP) — Michael Sam dismissed the thought that his sexuality has cost him a spot in the NFL.
“I don’t like to think that way,” Sam said in an Oprah Winfrey Network documentary that aired Saturday night. “But I do believe I’m a very talented football player and I’m going to continue working hard and try to get that opportunity to play in the league.”
The first openly gay player drafted in the NFL has no regrets.
“I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything right,” Sam said. “I am proud of how I handled things.”
Sam said coming out was the right thing to do. He would have preferred the news come out after he informed the team that drafted him, but he feared it would be revealed and felt pressure to control the situation.
“It didn’t need to be public,” Sam said. “Why do gay people have to do it?”
The production was billed as the player’s first TV appearance since being cut by the Dallas Cowboys in mid-October and played like a personal “Hard Knocks.” The 90-minute program was followed by a one-on-one with Winfrey, who asked Sam whether he believed sexual orientation is hurting his chances, and how long he’d keep trying.
“As long as I can,” Sam replied.
The documentary details countless anxious hours during the NFL draft, which Sam called “the longest three days of my life.” The New York Jets telephoned his agents to say they weren’t interested, and the Cowboys texted to say they were out, too.
Sam, who rose to stardom after a difficult childhood in tiny Hitchcock, Texas, asked that the sound on the TV be turned down at one point before the St. Louis Rams took him late in the seventh round.
“Am I going undrafted?” a frustrated Sam asked agent Cameron Weiss. “This phone still has not beeped.”
Sam said the reassuring hand of his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, on his shoulder during the wait to get picked affirmed the decision last February to reveal his sexual orientation to the nation. He informed Missouri coaches and players before his senior season and was the team MVP and SEC co-defensive player of the year.
“In that moment, I was like ‘I don’t care what happens. I made the right choice to come out,'” Sam said.
Sam broke down in sobs when Rams coach Jeff Fisher telephoned just before the team made him the 249th pick of the 256-pick draft. He had been projected to be chosen as early as the fourth round.
Sam kissed and hugged Cammisano and then the two smashed cake in each other’s faces as a national television audience looked on.
“Some say the kiss, the cake, it was all just too much,” Winfrey said in the voiceover prom for the program. “Some say he wasn’t good enough. Others say he should have never come out, one saying during the introduction to the program that he would be the mother of all distractions.”
Sam called it the “infamous kiss.” He said it was spontaneous and added he’d thought the cameras had been turned off.
“Everyone made a big deal out of it,” Sam said. “It’s just a kiss. Did you forget that I was gay? Should I be kissing a woman instead?”
Sam was among 21 players waived by the team to reach the 53-player limit before the season opener.
Echoing his remarks after making the pick, coach Jeff Fisher said several times it was purely a football decision. The Rams were well-stocked with pass rushers, and undrafted Ethan Westbrooks grabbed the final defensive end spot.
“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike,” Fisher said then. “I really was, and I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”
On Twitter, roughly an hour after he was cut, Sam thanked the Rams and the city of St. Louis. He also wrote “The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”
Sam spent seven weeks on the Cowboys’ practice squad before being released and is currently a free agent.
Out and Proud Celebrities
1. EJ JohnsonSource:Instagram 1 of 25
2. Robin Roberts announced her sexual orientation on Facebook in 2013. (Photo: AP)2 of 25
3. CNN Anchor Don Lemon3 of 25
4. Previously married to a man for seven years, Wanda Sykes officially came out in 2008.4 of 25
5. NBA player Jason Collins5 of 25
6. Fitness trainer Shaun T came out in 2013 and married his longtime boyfriend.6 of 25
7. Michael Sam announced he was gay in an ESPN interview.7 of 25
8. Singer Meshell Ndegeocello is an open lesbian and huge advocate for gay rights.(PR)8 of 25
9. Orlando Cruz is the first active, openly gay boxer.9 of 25
10. Elton John announced he was gay in 1976, and has been openly out since. (PR)10 of 25
11. Director and Producer Paris Barclay has been with his partner for 14 years. (PR)11 of 25
12. R&B singer Frank Ocean recently divulged to the world that his first love was a man. (AP)12 of 25
13. André Leon Talley, fashion icon and editor at Vogue Magazine. (PR)13 of 25
14. TV personality and hair stylist Miss Lawrence.14 of 25
15. Singer Melissa Etheridge announced she was a lesbian in 1993 and has been a huge gay rights activist since. (PR)15 of 25
16. "Precious" and "The Butler" director Lee Daniels16 of 25
17. Andre Charles or famously known as drag queen RuPaul has been openly gay for many years. (PR)17 of 25
18. Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi have been married for four years. (PR)18 of 25
19. Famous Latino singer Ricky Martin finally came out as gay in 2010. (PR)19 of 25
20. Famous Choreographer Bill T. Jones is openly gay. (PR)20 of 25
21. Former N'Sync band member Lance Bass announced he was gay in 2006. (PR)21 of 25
22. "Fast Car" singer Tracy Chapman. (PR)22 of 25
23. Anderson Cooper came out in an open email to fans. (AP)23 of 25
24. Celebrity hair Stylist and TV personality Derek J.24 of 25
25. Catwalk coach Miss J. Alexander.25 of 25
1. WNBA star Glory JohnsonSource:AP 1 of 16
2. College basketball star Derrick Gordon announced he was gay on Instagram on April 9, 2014.Source:Instagram 2 of 16
3. College Football star Michael Sam3 of 16
4. Former WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes4 of 16
5. NBA player Jason Collins5 of 16
6. WNBA player Brittney Griner6 of 16
7. Former NBA player John Amaechi7 of 16
8. Legendary Tennis player Billie Jean King8 of 16
9. Boxer Orlando Cruz9 of 16
10. Former NFL player Kwame Harris10 of 16
11. Former Olympic diver Greg Louganis11 of 16
12. Former MLB outfielder Glenn Burke12 of 16
13. Former Tennis star Martina Navratalova13 of 16
14. Former Soccer player Justin Fashanu14 of 16
15. Esera Tuaolo15 of 16
16. Megan Rapinoe16 of 16
(Photo Source: AP)