Michael Sam has been out of football since being dropped from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad and in an interview with GQ he expressed regret that he came out publicly as gay prior to the draft.
Sam: If I had it my way, I never would have done it the way I did, never would have told it the way I did.
Sam: I would have done the same thing I did at Mizzou. Which was to tell my team and my coaches and leave it at that. But since I did tell my team, word got out.… People think the word didn't get out. It did. Or it did and it didn't. They kept it confined within our family. But the recruiters knew, and reporters knew, and they talked to each other, and it got out. If I didn't have the year I did, nobody would have cared. But I did have that year. And a lot of people knew. Someone was gonna ask me, "I heard you told your team a secret.…" Well, I was comfortable with who I was, and I wouldn't have denied it. And then I wouldn't have been able to control the story. But I have no regrets. Some people can argue that I had the potential to go higher in the draft. But I think everything happens for a reason. It looks good to see me in the position I'm in now, because I can show the world how good I am and rise up the ranks. I'm at the bottom now. I can rise up, show I'm a football player. Not anything else. Just a football player.
Sam is obviously conflicted here, saying he had no regrets but while sounding like he does. I am not sure whether a reporter ever would have asked him about gay rumors, since reporters shy away from that. But by coming out on his own terms, Sam controlled the process and that's a plus.
In the interview, Sam admitted that as the draft neared an end and he was still undrafted, he feared the worst.
Maybe I should never have come out. Maybe I made a mistake about everything. Maybe the NFL wasn't ready for a gay player, after all. One of those moments. I started to cry. And at that moment, [boyfriend] Vito came into the room. I didn't even hear him come in; I didn't know he was there. But then his hand was suddenly on my shoulder. He just put his hand on my shoulder. I looked at him, and he was teary-eyed, too. And in that moment I knew that I had made the right choice.
Sam will never know whether he would have been drafted higher had he not come out publicly and that has to gnaw at him, which is why he is having second thoughts. At the same time, it's important that he at least was in charge of his narrative. He said that he is certain other gay players will follow him, though he did not get specific.
The interview is a great read since he talks openly about his awful childhood. It also had an interesting nugget on how he felt more welcome in Dallas than he did in St. Louis when he with the Rams.
In St. Louis, they welcomed me, but I felt they were just putting smiles on their faces. It was because they didn't know my future. It was almost like the situation with a stray dog-you don't want to get too close. In Dallas, they were more welcoming.
It is unclear whether Sam is talking about the fans in St. Louis and Dallas or the players. Also, the interview was done before Sam was released by the Cowboys, so we don't know whether it strengthened the idea that he should not have come out publicly before the draft. If Sam gets a chance to show the world he is an NFL player, it won't come until next season.