On Sunday, in interviews with The New York Times and on ESPN's Outside the Lines, Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam said that he is gay.
The All-American and Associated Press SEC Defensive Player of the Year is said to be a top prospect to go on to an NFL career. If the 24-year-old Sam is drafted in May, he would be the first openly gay player in NFL history.
"I am an openly, proud gay man," Sam told ESPN's Chris Connelly.
Sam first came out to his teammates in August of last year.
"I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out," he told The New York Times. Sunday's interviews were the first time he spoke publicly about his sexual orientation.
Sam said in the interview with ESPN that he made the decision to come out publicly, and not just to his team, when it came to a point where he didn't know exactly how many people knew of his sexual orientation.
"I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it," Sam said. "I just want to own my truth."
The NFL released a statement on Sunday night following the interviews.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," it said. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
Sam also acknowledged the gravity of the announcement and the effect it could have on his career.
"It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL," he said.