The Herald Bulletin

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Sports Columns

February 17, 2014

George Bremer: Sam's saga reaches much further than football

The annual NFL Scouting Combine arrives in Indianapolis this weekend, and the most anticipated moment will come Saturday when Missouri linebacker Michael Sam takes a stage in the media room.

Last week, Sam became the first active football player to openly acknowledge he is gay. The announcement came in a media firestorm that included interviews on ESPN and in the New York Times and a cover story for Sports Illustrated.

And it's only just begun.

In Indianapolis, Sam will face the same media throng that surrounded Notre Dame's Manti Te'o a year ago and asked such enlightened questions as, "Are you dating anyone in real life now?"

Sam's sexuality, of course, is a much larger topic of debate with far more reach than the fake girlfriend saga that dominated the news last February. Te'o eventually was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers — by former Indianapolis Colts scout Tom Telesco — and his rookie season went by without incident on or off the field.

All eyes will be watching to see if the same can be said for Sam.

On Saturday, University of Missouri students formed a "Wall of Love" to support Sam and thwart a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church while the school's football team was celebrated for its Cotton Bowl win against Oklahoma State.

Sam was named co-defensive player of the year in the nation's toughest college football conference this fall, and his announcement was met by waves of support at his alma mater. Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel said the linebacker revealed his sexuality to teammates during a dinner prior to the season, and none of the players shared Sam's secret before he was ready to go public.

There's no reason Sam shouldn't find similar support in the NFL.

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