Sports Illustrated senior writer Phil Taylor has nominated Michael Sam as the magazine's Sportsman Of The Year. Taylor lays out all the path Sam has taken this year, and how he has kept his head high and stayed focused on football:
Sam could have played it all so differently. He could have tried to tap into our sympathies, presented himself as a victim struggling against the homophobia of the league and of segments of the public. But he repeatedly said he wanted to be considered a football player first, and he backed that up by simply playing football. He never complained about things he had every right to complain about.
By choosing not to do anything except play, Sam showed a toughness that can't be measured by tackles or sacks. He left the social commentary to others, knowing that he would lend power to the LGBT struggle for equality just by putting on his pads. Even though he hasn't made it into a regular season NFL game yet -- he was cut by the Rams in the preseason and then released from the Cowboys practice squad - his mere presence in the league has made a difference.
Given how the story began in January and will run through the entire year, it's hard to argue Sam isn't the sportsman of the year and how his story isn't the defining sports story of 2014.