Michael Sam has signed a contract to play for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League this season. Barring injury, Sam will take his first regular-season professional football snaps when the Alouettes play host to the Ottawa Redblacks on June 25. It is the opening kick-off game for the 2015 CFL season and will be broadcast nationally in Canada.
That game may get more attention in the United States than any CFL game outside of the Grey Cup.
Sam was the first NFL prospect to ever come out publicly as gay, and he was the first publicly out gay man to play an NFL preseason game. An NFL active roster spot, however, has so far eluded him.
"With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today," said Alouettes' general manager, Jim Popp. "Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team."
He will wear No. 94 for the Alouettes.
Every expectation is that Sam will play extensively for the Alouettes this season and has the potential to move into a starting position quickly for the team.
While many hoped Sam would take his first regular-season professional football snap in the NFL, no team has been willing to sign him other than the St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys. Both teams cut him last season. Instead, he will follow in the footsteps of another trailblazer - Warren Moon - who spent five years in the CFL before any NFL teams would take a "chance" on a black quarterback. Moon is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I am very excited and proud to join the Montreal Alouettes and want to thank team Owner Robert Wetenhall, General Manager Jim Popp and Head Coach Tom Higgins for this opportunity," Sam said via the Alouettes. "I cannot wait to put on the pads, get back on the field and work hard each and every day with my teammates to bring a Grey Cup to the great fans here in Montreal.
Sam brings a pedigree rivaled by few CFL recruits. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, which some say equals the CFL in football talent. In the Cotton Bowl his senior season with the Missouri Tigers, Sam forced the game-clinching fumble. In the preseason with the Rams, Sam was top-five in the NFL (and No. 1 on his team) in sacks and was second on the Rams in tackles.
If Sam is able to perform well in the CFL this season, NFL teams will need to give him a second look. Various CFL players are signed to NFL futures contracts at the end of every year.
The Alouettes finished second in the East Division last season and lost to Hamilton in the second round of the playoffs. Last year's Alouettes sacks leader, John Bowman, recorded 12 sacks (the league best was 15) in 18 games. Montreal last won the Grey Cup in 2010.