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A Look At Michael Sam... THE ATHLETE.

Michael Sam working St. Louis Rams minicamp

Yes, Michael Sam came out. Yes, Michael Sam is gay. We get it. Who cares? He is a man. He is citizen. He is a FOOTBALL PLAYER.

Is he a hero? Maybe? I guess? I'd like to say the real heroes are overseas, fighting for our freedom. But, Jason Collins set the bar, made it comfortable for an athlete to come out and that is something all gay athletes that come out should be proud of. You shouldn't have to hide who you are. You're there to win, flat out. But that is topic for another discussion.

This is the most important part. As a sports fan should, you want to know if Michael Sam is a good football player for your team. In this case, the St. Louis Rams. Let's diverge...

As a freshman at the University of Missouri in 2010, he played in a total of 13 games, notching 12 total tackles (4 solo, 8 assisted) 3.5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 hurries, and 1 forced fumble, on his way to a bowl appearance. Solid numbers for an 18 year old in the Big 12.

As a sophomore, playing time increased. Thus production goes up, in 13 games Sam notched 29 total tackles (16 solo, 13 assisted) 3 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, 4 hurries, and no forced fumbles on his way to a second straight bowl appearance.

Moving onto his junior season, Missouri also made a move of their own, hopping into the toughest conference in all of college football, the SEC. A conference that develops the most NFL talent. 

As a junior, still a role player in 12 games, Sam notched 22 total tackles (9 solo, 13 assisted) 7 for loss, 4.5 sacks, 4 hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 defensive touchdown. 

As a senior, he blossomed. Becoming a Consensus All-American in 2013 notching 48 total tackles (31 solo, 17 assisted) 19 for loss, 11.5 sacks, 5 hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 pass deflections, and 1 defensive touchdown on his way to being named the SEC Defensive Player Of The Year. Pushed his team to a 12-2 record, winning the Cotton Bowl 41-31 in the process. While some would go out on a limb and say that not a single soul stood out as a great defensive player. And while I may agree with that to certain extent, he still managed to win this award in a conference that I still believe is the toughest conference. This conference develops the most NFL ready and NFL caliber talent. So winning this award regardless, is no slouch. It's quite the accomplishment, actually.

His stock going into the NFL Combine wasn't at it's highest, he came out. Obviously hurting his draft stock before even taking the field in Indy. And come Combine time, the numbers aren't overly impressive. Undersized. A little slow and not the best athlete. A look at his Combine credentials:

6'2" 261lbs

33-3/8" Arm Length

9-3/8" Hands

4.71 40 Yard Dash

25.5" Vertical

9'6" Broad Jump

4.71 20 Yard Shuttle

19 Bench reps

Needless to say, his Combine "stats", if you will, aren't particularly stellar. But for the love of god, can we stop putting so much stock in the Combine? There have been so many young kids that no one has heard of until the Combine. These athletic freak shows generate all this buzz, get drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft and have absolutely NOTHING to show for it. Insert Darius Heyward-Bey here. For once, could anyone just go off the soul fact that these guys can just play football? So much stock goes into these drills, not enough of going off game film. These "experts" generate so many of these formulas to calculate if someone can blast through the defensive and offensive line to make a tackle. "If Z can hit the square root of Q, then X can divide the Y by multiplying A and in turn C can be cubed but B will..." Stop it. Honestly. Stop it. Use your eyes. For once, use your eyes. Look at the tape. Can a defensive end chase down a Quarterback with 5.5 40 yard dash speed? Can an outside linebacker chase down a running back running outside the hash marks? Can he drop back in coverage? Not all the best athletes have the best Combines. Was Tedy Bruschi the best athlete? God no. But did he have a long NFL career? Yes. Was he a key cog in the Patriots defense for years? Yes. Did he help bring 3 Super Bowls to New England? Yes. Zach Thomas. Not the best athlete either. Long career with the Dolphins. 

Honestly, that's all we need to know. I happen to think that Michael Sam can have a good NFL career. Will he put up Hall of Fame numbers? Probably not. I think he can become a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 down lineman. He has to make himself versatile for the Rams because quite frankly, the Rams have a loaded defensive line that is only getting better, starting with Robert Quinn. The next question becomes, is Michael Sam coachable? Is he going to become a distraction? Is he a distraction already? Can he change positions? The Rams have to put him in spots to be successful. I think he can do that. But the odds are already against him because no one is going off game tape. Everyone is using the Combine as the indicator that he just isn't the athlete he needs to be. USE YOUR EYES PEOPLE! The guy can play!

So whether he is gay, straight, black, white, up or down, he has plenty to offer any football club. The Texas kid, who went to Mizzou, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams can play. But he's already on a short leash because of his athleticism. Because he is gay. But I bet if you give the guy the light of day, he can become a serviceable player. A role player. 

There is a place for him in this league.

stats attained from sports-reference.com

bleacherreport.com

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