NEW YORK — Michael Sam waited and waited. Hours passed, rounds came and went, and eventually, there were only eight more picks left on the third and final day of the NFL draft.
For just a moment, it looked as if his chance of being picked by a pro team and becoming the league's first openly gay player might take a detour. Or at least be delayed.
The call finally came in Saturday from the St. Louis Rams, the team right down the road from where Sam played his college ball at the University of Missouri.
Sam was selected in the seventh and final round and admitted it was a frustrating wait. He said teams that passed on him chickened out and he should have been drafted sooner.
"From last season alone, I should've been in the first three rounds. SEC Defensive Player of the Year, All-American," Sam said. He stopped short of directly saying his stock dropped in the draft because he came out.
"You know what, who knows? Who knows? Only the people who sit in the war room know," he said. "They saw Michael Sam, day after day they scratched it off the board. That was their loss. But St. Louis kept me on that board. And you know what I feel like I'm a (Jadeveon) Clowney, a first draft pick. I'm proud of where I am now."
Sam came out as gay in media interviews earlier this year. His team and coaches knew his secret and kept it for his final college season. He went on to have the best year of his career: He was the co-defensive player of the year in the nation's best college football conference and had 11.5 sacks.
The pick came after several rounds of suspense. The first round of the day, No. 4 overall, came and went, no Sam. Then the fifth and sixth, and finally, the day was down to just a handful of picks.