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With less than ten picks remaining in the 2014 NFL Draft, it began looking more and more likely that Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, would have to enter the league through undrafted free agency. When pick 249 was called, the St. Louis Rams elected to make history and call Sam's name with their 7th round pick. What better way to celebrate, than fully embracing the person you love, right? And in that moment, Michael Sam's boyfriend Vito Cammisano had a full on kiss planted on him as so many other wives and girlfriends did during the weekend.
Despite negative reaction from the dregs of society on Twitter, it was a landmark moment. Sam, as he's done consistently since coming out in February, stood proud as a man and reminded the world of exactly who he is. In that moment, Sam embraced the dialogue that's taken place throughout the country since his coming out, and effectively put it to bed. There was an air of accepting the narrative that's surrounded him, while also reminding the world of it's normalcy in an abnormal situation. "Yes, I'm gay. Like every other football player taken before and after me, I'm going to kiss my partner in celebration. Now let's play football."
For his part, Vito Cammisano, a student at Missouri as well, celebrated Mike Sam's big day.
Wow.What a day. On cloud 9. So proud and happy! #stl #rams #draft @MikeSamFootball...
We are staying home! Could not be more proud of my babe! #stl #rams #missouri
There's been plenty of pious dialogue saying that the only big deal around a gay player in the NFL is the day when it's no longer a big deal. That day isn't today. Today, Michael Sam drove the dialogue. Yes, he's a gay man, but he's also a football player. He was the first openly gay football player drafted in NFL history, but without equivocation, he absolutely was not the first gay football player drafted. With Sam breaking that barrier, there's sure to be more feeling the freedom to come out without fear or shame.
Today was the day to celebrate a gay man kissing his boyfriend on a National Football League broadcast.
Now let's go play football.
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In a celebration worthy announcement, Missouri Defensive End, and SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam has announced that he is gay. According to Adam Schefter, Sam is projected as a mid round draft pick, and barring an unexpected announcement prior to May's draft, will make history as the first gay player in the history of the National Football League.
Sam came out to teammates and coaches during camp in August of 2013 during a session of telling the team something about himself. While all members associated with the Missouri Tigers squad protecting his status from the public eye, despite Sam never asking this protection of anyone he chose to confide in. On Sunday, Sam conducted interview with the New York Times, and ESPN's Outside the Lines to acknowledge that he is gay, telling both sources, "I am an openly, proud gay man."
While there is an air of tolerance and almost excitement at the announcement, the obvious subsequent question to this news is of course, "Who is Michael Sam's boyfriend?" In an era where public outing is considered taboo and incomprehensible, Sam isn't about to say. He did acknowledge in his interviews that he dated a fellow Mizzou athlete, but noted that the person was not a football player.
Sam's upbringing was filled with personal tragedy and obstacles along his way to 11.5 sacks and 19 TFL in his senior season, explaining to Outside the Lines how this was an easy decision for him:
I endured so much in my past: seeing my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to meet her. My second oldest brother went missing in 1998, and me and my little sister were the last ones to see him ... my other two brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade, currently both in jail.Telling the world I'm gay is nothing compared to that.
Michael Sam discussed how well received he was by the Tigers locker room, and hopes that translates into the NFL for the new path he blazes. He just came out to his parents within the last week knowing that these stories were on the verge of being released. He joined Twitter immediately following the ESPN piece, and launched his Twitter career by saying, I want to thank everybody for their support and encouragement,especially , and . I am proud to tell my story to the world!
The NFL has already commented on this news, in an official statement saying:
We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL.
In the signature quote to end his interview with OTL, Sam states:
I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam: I'm a college graduate. I'm African American, and I'm gay. I'm comfortable in my skin.
Seriously, who could resist this mustache besides Juli?
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I have to think deep down inside the end of Super Bowl XXXIV still eats away at Jeff Fisher. Really how can it not. You work your entire life to get to that moment and have it end one yard short, I'm not sure how you move on from a moment like that. Especially when you consider that Jeff hasn't gotten back to the big game since XXXIV. Well I will tell you one way you get over a game like that: faith. And faith, is exactly what Jeff and his now ex-wife Juli turned to after a life changing moment like that. In an interview with crosswalk.com, Juli Fisher said:
"The Lord poured out such blessing on us,. In God's economy, it didn't matter who won that game."
Jeff and Juli met back when Jeff was a big time star at the University of Southern California (USC). The Trojans were playing in the Rose Bowl and like most of the college bowls, the teams are required to participate in various events during the week leading up the game. That year the Trojans participated in "The Beef Bowl", an eating contest at a restaurant called Lawry's Restaurant. At this event the Tournament of Roses invited their Princesses of the Parade to the beef bowl, one of who was Juli. I think you know the rest of the story after that.
From there Jeff and Juli married in 1986 and ended up having 3 children, Brandon, Trent and Tara. As I mentioned above faith and religion played a big part of Jeff and Juli's life. While in Tennessee the couple was actively involved in the Mercy Ministry and held many charity events to help raise money. Despite the couples strong faith based relationship Jeff and Juli separated in 2008 with Juli alleging "inappropriate marital conduct" on Jeff's part(and if you want to read between the lines, I think we can all see that it's likely that Juli thought Jeff may have been stepping out on her). This wasn't the first time the couple separated, in 2004 the couple separated but did not divorce. Now Jeff is a single guy trying to turn around the team that stopped him in Super Bowl XXXIV, the St. Louis Rams.