Posted on August 9, 2014 at 9:00 AM
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (FootballSTL
) -- When you’re the reigning SEC defensive player of the year and you’re used to commanding double teams on a regular basis, having success on the football field shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
But then again, most guys aren’t the first openly gay athlete to play a game in NFL history. Sam was officially credited with one tackle and a quarterback hit in the Rams loss to the Saints on Friday night at the Edward Jones Dome. But his impact went far beyond the stat sheet.
“As a child I never thought I would be here,” Sam said. “And after I took my first snap it was just amazing. It was a dream come true.”
Sam, the Mizzou alum, put pressure on the Saints quarterbacks on multiple occasions in the exhibition opener. He was even upset with himself that he didn’t do more with those opportunities. There were several occasions when the Saints offense was double teaming Sam to make sure he didn’t get to their quarterback. That’s a sign of respect…maybe the ultimate sign of respect actually.
“He did a good job,” Chris Long said. “He’s practiced well so far. He’s unpolished like a lot of rookies but he pleasantly surprised you when he got out there in a game situation and played pretty well.”
“Mike played hard. I didn’t watch him individually but had he had some plays that stood out. We’ll evaluate on the tape and see how he did,” head coach Jeff Fisher said.
Being a pioneer as far as leading the way for other gay athletes to come out and be who they are is not something Sam really embraces. He says he isn’t do this for other people, even though that’s a potential side benefit. He just wants to be who he is and that’s it.
But did it hit him that he was an NFL player at any point tonight?
“It did, it did. During the national anthem (I’m thinking to myself) ‘this is the big stage’,” Sam said.
Watching Michael Sam – the football player, not the gay athlete – put pressure on the Saints for the majority of the 2nd quarter shows that he really is far beyond most other rookies as far as being a pure pass rusher. He won’t be topping Robert Quinn, Chris Long, William Hayes or even Eugene Sims on the depth chart.
But he has a legitimate chance of sticking on this team as a 5th defensive end. And it’s 100% based on his ability. It’s not because of anything else but that.