Openly gay football player impacts local college athletics

By Nick Kovatch on February 11 at 1:02pm

It is out in the open now. Michael Sam, one of the nation’s top college football players, admitted in a television interview that he’s a proud gay man.

Sam, a defensive lineman at the University of Missouri is eligible for the NFL draft in May. If selected, he would become the first openly gay man to play pro football.

Our reporting partners at WICS ABC Newschannel 20 visited MacMurray College to get local reaction from students and staff. Zachary Bozarth is a MacMurray College Student Athlete Advisory Committee member.

“I like it. I feel like it was just a matter of time before someone came out and said it. I like how it’s a younger player, though, because you’ll be able to watch his career as it goes on,” says Bozarth

The Jacksonville sophomore says he had an openly gay teammate in high school. Now both he and the MacMurray athletic director Scott McClure think Sam’s coming out offers opportunity for others.

“It’s definitely about more than athletics. It’s how we treat people. It’s part of the educational process here at MacMurray College and everywhere in terms of bigger issues in society,” says McClure.

Sam’s announcement has been met with both positive and negative response in the world of professional athletics. McClure explains what he wants it to mean.

“I want our college student athletes at MacMurray and everywhere to understand the differences and appreciate the differences in people and see that as an opportunity for education, as an opportunity for growth,” he said.

In addition to Sam, McClure mentions Division III freshman kicker Conner Mertens who came out as bisexual in January.

Sam told his teammates and coaches about being gay last August. He says he was going to wait until after the NFL Draft to go public with his homosexuality but felt forced to address it after rumors about his sexuality swirled at the Senior Bowl he played in a few weeks ago.