Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was honored for his courage displayed last season with one of the highest honors out there. Sam was named the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The award will be presented to the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year at the 2014 ESPYs later this summer (July 16).
“I’m very honored to be presented with the Arthur Ashe award,” Sam said. “You know I don’t think there is anything courageous I did. I look forward to when we can live life in a world when gays don’t have to come out in public.”
Sam has his sights set on being drafted in the NFL Draft in the next few days. Wherever he ends up, he will be the first openly gay player to suit up in an NFL uniform in league history, breaking down a perceived barrier in sports. Sam revealed his sexuality to his Missouri teammates and coaches last summer, but the news was not broken until after the season thanks to a team decision to stand by Sam and allow him to break the news on his terms instead of having it leaked. That Sam’s sexual preference was kept silent for so long in this age of new media and instant news is an incredible testament to Missouri’s entire football program.
Sam put together one of the top individual performances during the 2013 season in the SEC, as demonstrated by his Defensive Player of the Year award. Sam helped lead Missouri to an SEC East division championship and berth in the SEC Championship Game in the program’s second year in the conference. The Tigers lost to Auburn in the conference title game but rebounded to win the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State. Now Sam joins a list of names honored for a variety of displays of courage including Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Billie Jean King and Pat Summitt.