Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2014 09:10 | By Agence France-Presse

Sam 'determined' to make it as first openly gay player in NFL

Michael Sam, who made history as the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, vowed to use any negative reaction he encounters as a spur to excellence.


Sam 'determined' to make it as first openly gay player in NFL

St. Louis Rams' draft pick Michael Sam addresses the media during a press conference at Rams Park in Earth City, Missouri, on May 13, 2014 - by Dilip Vishwanat

"I'm determined to be great," the 24-year-old defensive end said on Tuesday as the St. Louis Rams held a day of press conferences to introduce their 11 new draftees at Rams Park.

"I'm determined to make this team, and I have every confidence in myself that I will make this team," Sam added, saying it was "pretty cool" that his number 96 jersey is the number-two seller among rookie shirts being sold on NFL.com.

"So when I do make it, and when I put my pads on and if somebody wants to say something, then you will see number 96 running down that field and making good, big plays for this team."

He said he was "honored" to serve as an inspiration, "but right now, I'm just looking forward to continuing my dream."

Sam, who went public about his sexuality in February after a standout career at the University of Missouri, was drafted on Saturday -- television cameras capturing his emotional reaction to the telephone call he received from Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

Sam was taken with the 249th overall selection in the annual allocation of new talent for America's most popular sport.

Rams officials want him to concentrate on his football, but in a nod to his unique position, Sam was alone among their rookies to have his own press conference Tuesday, albeit with Fisher alongside him in a live ESPN broadcast.

Television cameras on Saturday showed him doubled over with emotion, and he then turned to his boyfriend and kissed him.

The simple gesture sparked instant debate, some condemnation on social media, some praise and a welter of opinion on how the famously traditional NFL will cope with a gay player.

While Sam earned Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the year honors with Mizzou last season, at 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds (1.88m, 116 kg) he's small for an NFL defensive end.

He will still have to earn a place on the Rams roster if he's to become the first openly gay player to compete in the NFL, but his fellow rookies said they would welcome him as a teammate.

Second-round pick Lamarcus Jordan said: "He's a courageous young man. He's a brave young man that we need in this organization."

Fisher said that the Rams weren't really in the market for a defensive end in the draft, but they couldn't pass up a chance to take a player of Sam's talent when he was available so late.

Sam's value as a football player was "off the charts" compared to others left on the board by that late stage, said Fisher.

"So we drafted Michael as a football player and he has an opportunity now to come in and compete to try to make our team."

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