Why Michael Sam Will Struggle To Make It In The NFL

Recently Missouri Tigers defensive end made a very brave yet shocking public announcement by admitting that he is gay, a fact he previously disclosed to his college teammates last August.

The media was very quick to jump on this news and the hot topic in the week that followed was nonstop talk on TV, radio and the internet about the stand out player and what this will mean for him in the coming month.

Many pundits feel that he should transition very well into an NFL locker room and many ex players have chimed in to agree. While we would hope that we as a nation has matured enough to overlook his sexual preferences there is evidence that he may be facing a long road ahead.

Michael Sam

Measurables

The 1st obstacle Michael Sam faces are his physical stats. As a player he was named an SEC defensive player of the year while recording 18.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks during his senior season. The SEC is known as the nation’s premier college football conference so those numbers should translate into a 1st round grade correct?

Unfortunately for Michael Sam that just might not be the case. Sam is listed at 6’2” and 255lbs which to most of us seems like a huge person is actually a little short for a prototypical defensive end. According to this article on ESPN the average height of an NFL defensive end is 6’4”.

His speed is average for a defensive end as well, he has been timed between 4.64 in the 40 yard dash, which is acceptable, all the way to 4.85 in the 40 which is downright slow for that position.

Based on his height he may be considered a “tweener” as a defensive player which might make him a fit for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. A 3-4 defense lines up with 3 lineman and 4 linebackers as opposed to the 4-3 which uses 4 lineman and 3 linebackers. The 3-4 uses the outside linebacker to blitz and bring pressure to the opposing teams quarterback as well as helping out in the running game and sometimes even covering tight ends and running backs catching passes out of the backfield.

The issue Michael Sam has with this is he played as a defensive end in college so he will have to learn a new position which is a risky proposition in and on its own merit. In addition to him playing a different position his athleticism might not be suited to the position of 3-4 linebacker.  His size is adequate for outside linebacker but because he will be expected to cover a receiver from time to time his speed and agility are a hindrance.

Sexuality

The elephant in the room is his sexuality of course. The fact is that quite a few NFL players may not be ready to share their locker rooms (and showers) with an openly gay man. Jonathan Vilma recently said as much in an interview when he said “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?” This is a similar view to what has been said on sports talk shows throughout the United States as well as in social media.

Sadly the players may be the least of his worries. When the news broke several sources have leaked comments from unnamed general managers and others in NFL personnel departments and the news is not good for Sam. An unnamed assistant coach was quoted as sayingThere are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that,” the assistant coach said in the article.

“There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality. It shouldn’t be, but it will be.”

Future

There is no doubt that by coming out as a gay man Michael Sam is going to face an uphill battle to even be drafted, let alone play in the NFL . It is also clear that some players, coaches and even general managers are already concerned of what his addition to their teams might mean.  Finally his physical size and speed has been an issue with many scouts who are currently evaluating the talent entering the 2014 draft.

Even with all of these issues in front of him Michael Sam has proven to be able to flat out play football. No one is dominant is the nation’s toughest college football conference if they are a bad player or if they have poor work ethic. He also displayed tremendous courage by coming out the way he did in public while many of his detractors continue to hide in anonymity.

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Pete Kontakos is a blogger that enjoys discussing sports, martial arts, fitness, health and vitamin supplements. When discussing vitamin products he often visits US Vitamin Injections for his information. Pete is also certifed by USA wrestling as a wrestling coach.