Chances are, if you’re a casual sports fan, you hadn’t heard the name Michael Sam just one week ago.
Now, Sam is one of the biggest stories on television news programs and sports radio stations around the country because the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year publicly announced he’s gay.
When he’s drafted in May, Sam will become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
There has been much speculation about how a pro locker room will accept an openly gay player and whether or not his announcement will affect his draft stock.
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was a guest of Doug and Wolf during Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday and talked about what his evaluation process of Sam will consist of.
“I want to make this perfectly clear — every player that we evaluate for the upcoming draft, we judge them on their physical skill set, we judge them on their football character, we judge them on their ability to learn and process and we judge them on their medical history,” Keim said. “Race, religion and sexual orientation — those aspects are never even brought into the process.
“So what I’m concerned about is how talented is Michael Sam? Is he a good teammate? Is he good in the locker room? Is he smart? Is he competitive and what does his medical history look like?”
Of course, a lot of that information has yet to be obtained by Keim and his staff; that process will happen during the NFL Draft Combine later this month in Indianapolis.
Sam led his Missouri team with 11.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss while forcing two fumbles and returning one for a touchdown in a 41-26 win over Georgia. Sam helped Mizzou to an SEC East championship while earning unanimous All-American honors.
Yet, he’s projected to be a mid-round pick in May. Publications who have dropped Sam’s stock say it’s because of his lack of ideal size and a lackluster showing at the Senior Bowl.
But for Keim and the Cardinals, the Texas native’s sexuality has nothing to do with the evaluation process.
“If he’s a good teammate and he’s a good person, he’s going to be fine in your locker room because his teammates are going to accept him for the person and the player he is — not those other things,” he said. “We will look at Michael Sam no differently than any other player in this draft.”