Sam fails to make it on Rams’ final rosterMichael Sam has already made a significant impact on the National Football League, even though his long-cherished dream to become the league’s first openly gay player may never materialize.
Though the 24-year-old defensive end failed to make the St. Louis Rams’ final 53-man roster for the 2014 regular season on Saturday and cleared waivers the following day to remain on the outside looking in, he achieved one of his primary goals.
Ever since he ended his 2013 senior season as a University of Missouri standout by being awarded co-defensive player of the year honors in the Southeastern Conference, he has yearned to be judged purely on his merits as a football player.
And that is exactly what he got during his brief spell with the Rams during the preseason where his impressive work ethic and burning desire to simply be “one of the team” made a lasting impact with the entire coaching staff and his fellow players.
“Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do,” Jeff Fisher, Rams head coach, said after the defensive end was cut amid 21 other roster moves before the NFL deadline.
“He got a chance to play a lot of snaps, he had the second-most snaps on the defensive line to Ethan Westbrooks, and was productive. Mike played well. He has the ability to play someplace. It’s gotta be the right place, it’s gotta be a fit.”
The 6-feet-2, 260-pound Sam became the first openly gay player to be selected in an NFL Draft when he was taken in the seventh round by the Rams.
Despite his success at Missouri, talent evaluators have said he might struggle in the NFL.
A day after he was unclaimed off waivers by other league teams, Sam failed to make the Rams’ 10-player practice squad on Monday, mainly because their defensive line is such a strong unit.
He had been vying with the undrafted Westbrooks for the last of nine defensive line spots with the Rams, and Westbrooks made the roster after displaying greater energy and big-play potential than his rival.
Fisher said the final roster choices hinged not only on Sam’s competition with Westbrooks but also on the luxury of having nine defensive linemen on a team that uses a four-man front.
“It was a football decision back in May to draft Mike and once again it’s been all about football. I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike, I really was,” Fisher said.
For Sam, the long journey continues, but he was quick to thank the Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving him “this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level.”