That’s how Missouri defensive end prospect Michael Sam wants to be thought of during his pursuit of his NFL dream.
Sam met with the media on Saturday at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He wanted to talk more about his football career than his recent announcement that he is gay.
“I just wished you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player,” the SEC co-defensive player of the year said to an enormous gathering of reporters and cameras in the work room of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sam totaled 11.5 sacks last season and noted that his play, at times, was “inconsistent.”
The Missouri prospect also told the questioning reporter who asked about his 2013 season, “It’s hard to win, buddy.”
Sam was cool and collected when talking about the whirlwind he's experienced over the last two weeks. The Missouri senior announced his sexual orientation prior to the NFL Scouting Combine and said it was a decision he felt was right to do.
“I did it on my time, my terms,” Sam said.
The defensive end prospect also reiterated several times that his focus is on making it to the NFL, not making endorsement money.
“I’m not focused on that at all,” Sam said.
His biggest focus is on proving himself as a viable option for teams in need of defensive linemen or outside linebackers. Sam believes he’s a fit for any NFL defensive scheme because of what he does best.
“My specialty is rushing the passer,” Sam said.
“If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback.”
Sam has met with several NFL clubs and said his sexual orientation was not discussed in his combine interviews. He also was appreciative of the support of his Missouri classmates, who recently carved his name in snow at Faurot Field, home of the Tigers.
For now, Sam’s NFL dream is all that matters. Being a pioneer in professional sports will have to wait.
“I’m not focusing on anything else but to earn my spot on an NFL team,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Harbaugh spoke positively about Sam’s newsworthy announcement.
“I respect his honesty,” the 49ers coach said. “I very much look forward to watching him compete like I do watching all those youngsters compete. I love watching them go through the process.”