Michael Sam speaks to students about his life

The first openly gay man drafted into the NFL shared his successes and struggles.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Chiles, Contributing Writer

On Thursday, Michael Sam addressed Florida Atlantic students in the Barry Kaye Auditorium to share his story of adversity with them.

Sam became a household name in 2014 as the first openly gay man drafted into the NFL. Although his professional football career lasted less than two years, media coverage and controversy surrounded his short time in the league.

“Everyone knows what they heard from the media,” Sam said. “I want to let everyone know from the source, from myself.”

Sam’s story garnered national attention, both positive and negative, when he publicly came out as gay after completing his college football career in 2014.

According to Sam, his early life was riddled with tragedy. By the age of 9, three of his siblings had already passed away. Without any stability at home, he found a “real family” in the football team at the University of Missouri, where he later earned the 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I wanted to let everyone know how much adversity I went through,” he said. “A lot of these kids may think they have it hard, especially during their college years. They’re confused, but if you stay on the right path, it’ll be alright.”

Sam’s talk at FAU, titled “More Than Football” gave insight into how he grew up confused about his sexual orientation and had nobody to turn to. It wasn’t until he experimented with his sexuality in college that Sam was definitely sure he was gay.

“There are so many people out there afraid to live their life because of what others would think of them,” he said.  “Not only kids bully, but adults too.”  

After Sam was drafted to the Rams in the final round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he kissed his partner in celebration. The famous image of this kiss was broadcasted for days by several media outlets.

“To this day I never understood why the media made such a big deal of me kissing my boyfriend,” Sam said. “Did you not believe me when I said I was gay?”

Following the event, several students said Sam’s talk resonated with them.

“It was really inspirational,” said Andre Silva, a sophomore philosophy major. “I was moved by how much he went through, and to see him up there knowing how much he went through was amazing.”

“He was great,” said Jackie Griffin, a freshman English major. “The whole talk was inspiring and I definitely teared up a couple of times.”

Thomas Chiles is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @thomas_iv.