Gary Pinkel, the Head Football Coach of Michael Sam, the first openly gay college football player, stopped in Biloxi today. Sam could become the first openly gay athlete to play in the N.F.L. It’s not every day that a head coach from the southeastern conference is in downtown Biloxi. Pinkel has been put under scrutiny in the past, but now, it's one of his players from last season that could make history. In fact, Sam could be breaking a major milestone before he ever sets foot on the field. Sam says, "I'm not afraid of who I am. I'm not afraid to tell the world of who I am. I am Michael Sam. I'm a college graduate and I'm gay." Sam became a household name last Sunday when he announced to the world that he is gay, but he chose to pass this on to his coaches and teammates long before this past weekend. Pinkel says, "We're a real tight football team, real tight, and we work really hard on being a really tight football team. You don't think that carries over to winning games? There’s no question it does and I thought you saw a great example of how they embraced him." Today, Sam’s former Head Coach at Missouri, Pinkel, addressed a crowd of high school coaches at a coaching clinic at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. His focus was on developing coaching techniques, including how to foster a family attitude on and off the field. Pinkel also says, "There is so much more to winning then X’s and O’s, developing teams, developing that atmosphere."
It was this environment that led Sam's teammates to put his sexual orientation on the sidelines and to accept him as one of their own. Pinkel also says, "It’s not about my personal opinion, ok? It’s about respecting and caring for other people that are part of our family, no matter what subject you're talking about or issue, it doesn't matter. It all comes back to being a part of the team and I'm really proud of my team for doing that." Sam says now that he has come out as gay, he hopes teams can look past his sexual orientation and focus on his ability as a player, like his former team has. Sam says, "Hopefully players will see that they don't judge me because I'm gay. They will see that this guy works hard. Can he win us games and a championship? And I can."
Sam was SEC Defensive Player of the Year and racked up eleven and a half sacks last season. Some draft experts believe his draft stock has gone down after the announcement because teams don't want a player with so much hype. If drafted, he will become the first openly gay player to play in the N.F.L.