Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam recently came out of the closet. That turned sports fans’ attention not only to the opening of baseball spring training but also to April’s National Football League draft.
Some NFL insiders question whether Michael Sam’s in-between size—he weighs 255 pounds—will enable him to find a position at which to excel. Others wonder if Michael Sam will bring too much baggage to their locker rooms. Or more accurately, if teammates will bring their baggage. NFL culture has not proven receptive to gays joining the player ranks, although it’s reasonable to assume that some current players are gay.
Certainly an interesting cross-section of college players is eligible for this year’s draft. While scouting reports remain guarded, I’ve uncovered a few leaks. Here’s a peek at four other players—their names must remain confidential—analyzed by NFL scouts.
Defense back A: Strong safety with rep as a vicious hitter as attested by two ex-girlfriends. College coaches and fans loved his mean streak, so the local district attorney is reluctant to try him on assault charges fearing loss of his season tickets. Player’s philosophical comment: “Can’t we just move on?” Projected first-round pick.
Quarterback B: Gambler who keeps both defenses and university officials off balance. Told arresting officer at illegal dice game he was studying theories of mathematical probability. Was only enrolled in three physical education classes at the time. Explained five thousand dollars in jacket pocket as money collected for purchase of Girl Scout cookies. Everyone loves his swagger, including pre-draft move to condo in Las Vegas. Projected first-round pick.
Offensive lineman C: Nicknamed “The Human Roadblock.” Great tenacity fighting off pass rushers attempting to sack his quarterback and police attempting to sack him after driving 95 miles an hour on city street and rear-ending another vehicle. Accident left a seven-year-old girl paralyzed. Claims, “That wasn’t me. That was the alcohol.” Projected first-round pick.
Linebacker D: Known as “The Assassin” for his bone-crunching tackles and trademark celebration miming holding a gun and pulling the trigger. Denies shooting anyone after leaving a house party following an argument and returning in a friend’s Honda Civic. “I was holding the gun for someone else. Besides, you stuff some big guys in a small car and everyone ends up with powder burns on their hands.” Projected first-round pick.
No question, sports reveals a lot about what makes America great: If you can deliver, you’ll earn a place on a team and the big money that comes with it.
As to Michael Sam’s draft prospects, I really don’t know. Yes, he was a game changer at the highest college level. But as fans know, physical ability isn’t enough. Athletes need character. Teammates are like brothers. They have to be comfortable with each other. To become champions, teams need not only skills but also chemistry.
That’s where drafting Michael Sam could be a problem. He’s already earned his college degree. Moreover, he’s intelligent, thoughtful and well spoken. It could be it’s this—not his sexual orientation—some general managers, coaches and players see as a threat in the locker room.
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Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village. And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.