NFL: Sam becomes first openly gay player drafted into NFL

The National Football League Draft selected its first openly gay player Saturday when the St. Louis Rams took Michael Sam in the seventh round. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
The National Football League Draft selected its first openly gay player Saturday when the St. Louis Rams took Michael Sam in the seventh round. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - The National Football League Draft selected its first openly gay player Saturday when the St. Louis Rams took Michael Sam in the seventh round.

Sam, who starred as a defensive end for the University of Missouri and went public with his sexuality in February, had an agonisingly long wait for the historic moment.

He was taken with the 249th overall selection on the final day of the annual allocation of new talent for America's most popular sport.

As a senior at Missouri, Sam notched 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses as he earned first-team All-American honours and the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors.

However, his draft stock dropped after a disappointing showing at the NFL scouting combine, where teams evaluate potential new players.

In addition, at 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds (1.88m, 116 kg), Sam is small for an NFL defensive end and is expected to transition to outside linebacker in the NFL.

That had draft pundits predicting Sam wouldn't be taken until the sixth round of the draft, and, in fact, it wasn't until the seventh and final round was winding down -- seven spots before the 256th and final selection -- that he was picked.

Sam will still have to earn his place on the Rams team.

But he has already inked his first endorsement deal, signing with Visa earlier this week.