A few months before the St. Louis Rams picked him up late in this year’s draft, the Missouri standout shocked the world by announcing he was gay.
Despite all the criticism (and support—countless players have rallied to his side) concerning his sexuality, Michael Sam has altered the professional sports landscape forever. While he’s not the first major athlete to come out (see: Jason Collins, whose career was in doubt after his famous Sports Illustrated announcement), he could be the firstever openly gay player to compete at the highest level in a major U.S. sport.
In 2013, the 6’2″, 260-pound defensive end, a unanimous All-American, led the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss as the anchor of a stout defense that went 12–2 en route to a Cotton Bowl victory.
FIT FACT: At age 17, Sam competed in powerlifting, deadlifting 580 pounds.