St. Louis Rams rookie Michael Sam will accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award tonight at the ESPYs in Los Angeles. He will join the likes of Muhammed Ali, Billie Jean King, Pat Tillman and Tommie Smith & John Carlos as honorees for the prestigious award.
A couple months ago a producer at ESPN asked me who should present Sam with the award. Three things flashed into my mind. The first was that it had to be someone from the NFL. It couldn't be a politician (though Barack Obama or Joe Biden would be cool). It certainly couldn't be someone from Hollywood - just too predictable for a "gay" award-winner. Sam's place in history will be his place in the NFL, and it had to be someone from the League. Second and third was that he either had to be known as a really tough, hard-nosed player, or that he be deeply religious. Either of those, coupled with the player being from the NFL, would send the most powerful statement.
Ray Lewis was the first guy who jumped into my head. There isn't a player more known for his toughness and strength than Lewis. Troy Polamalu, Jerome Bettis, Rodney Harrison, Richard Sherman and Kurt Warner all raced through my mind. Tim Tebow, given his religious convictions, could be a winner. Hell, any of these guys would be a powerful statement.
I personally settled on one man: Tony Dungy. The former Indianapolis Colts head coach and Philadelphia Eagles safety was the perfect combination of hard-nosed player with deeply held religious beliefs. I'm not sure Dungy would even do it, or that ESPN would allow it (Dungy has become one of NBC Sports' biggest names in NFL commentary). But if I could have hand-picked someone, that's whom I would have picked.
Who will present Michael Sam with the 2014 Arthur Ashe Award? We'll find out tonight at 9pmET on ESPN!