Categorized | 2014 Draft, News

Former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis Believes 90 To 95 Percent Of NFL Players Will Be Accepting Of Michael Sam


On Sunday, Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam announced that he is gay, and the Associated Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year could now become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL.

Sam said in interviews with several media outlets that he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.

Sam says: "I am an openly, proud gay man."

Sam, who recorded 11.5 sacks in 2013 to go along with 19 total tackles for loss and 48 total tackles, participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month and is projected to be a mid-round draft pick this coming May.

At the annual All-Star game, Sam measured in at 6015 and weighed 260 pounds. Because of that and his 80 1/4 wing-span, several teams that run a 3-4 defense figure to be interested in him as an outside linebacker prospect and that includes the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Following the news breaking about Sam coming out, the NFL released a short statement supporting his decision.

"We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. 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."

During a Sunday night interview on ESPN, former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis said that he believes 90 to 95 percent of NFL players will be accepting of Sam, according to Scott Brown of ESPN.com on Twitter.

"I think this is the perfect opportunity for the NFL to now make this a point to communicate to every NFL team that now you have to understand, you have to bring these players to this moment" said Bettis.

Sam has been invited to take part in the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later on this month.

Tags: , , ,

About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Matt Manzo

    Such an amazing story! Talk about courage and guts! I think the players might be accepting but I do think he might drop or scare off some teams that might view this as a distraction, ala Tebow.
    I also think the Rooneys would welcome him!

  • Zachary Smith

    I hope the kid can play. I was happy to see he was projected in rounds 3-5 before this, it would be very different if he was just a marginal player.

    Wish him the best and wouldn’t be shocked if he comes to Pittsburgh. If he comes here, I just hope they don’t do the Hard Knocks show.

  • chris ward

    A lot of courage by Micheal Sam, not an easy thing to do at such a young age, I give him a lot of credit. He knows who he is and is comfortable in his own skin.

  • SFIC

    Wow! How courageous! I have to admit, I’m a Christian, but I’ve always refused to judge people not matter what they do or have done. Michael Sam was on my board and now will etched in even more. Any person who is this brave can play on my team any time.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Who am i to criticize someone for being happy, i hope he is successful and has a great career. This man is courageous, and I hope he can lead as an example for others.

  • Shawn Winbush

    Honestly, I would be upset if he did play……….for anyone except THE STEELERS! A proud,tradition- rich,and blue-collar organization would be the perfect place for this kid.This kid has talent,and i believe would contribute greatly to the organization.

  • Richard Edlin

    With some of the noises to date, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was available for a 7th round compensatory pick (if we end up getting one for Mundy). Given the messages that would need to come with drafting him (or choosing him as an UDFA), it would also be worth thinking about Jonathan Martin too …

  • Richard Edlin

    Good point – can’t see any team on Hard Knocks drafting him.

  • Dwayne Ferguson

    With the way the media has sainted and praised him so quickly and effortlessly they will probably put him in the hall of fame before Bettis.

  • CrazyTerry

    I am not huge on the gay thing though I admit supporting their rights to military and civil unions(indifferent on the marriage thing). But you gotta admit it takes freaking guts to come out openly in football. The question is what kind of net effect will the publicity have on his draft stock. With his bigger profile, will more teams be aware of him and snap him up earlier than he would have gone, or would he fail in the draft because of fears of locker room politics making him a good value pick for the Steelers to take.
    What is the scouts rating on him? Where was he projected to go before this news?

  • Josh

    I think any team fearing a distraction can probably use Te’o as a fair example of how it will play out. Big media storm for a couple weeks/month but eventually they’ll move on. Especially once actual games are played, some unexpected team is 3-0, a new phenom comes out of nowhere, there’s a big contrOversial call in a big game, etc.

  • 20Stoney

    I saw some highlights this morning on tv. I know it’s hard to judge from just that, but he looked like a player.

  • GH05T

    the social reaction toward the gay lifestyle has changed greatly in the last few years but i think a team on the bubble will shy away from an openly gay player at first but will be more accepting once if it proves not to be a distraction after all football is a business and if a player helps the team/players win and increases the money they make i think it will quickly become a non issue

  • mem359

    That was my thought, this is a tempest in a teapot.
    It won’t be an issue once preseason practices start, but before the draft the decision makers in management will worry about what the other guys might think.

  • Josh

    yeah – the biggest consideration should be the internal team culture. some GMs were quoted in SI stating that it will rely on coach/player leadership to set the right tone, etc. The media just can’t sustain a story, no matter how controversial. The Martin/Incognito incident is proof of that.

  • James Kling

    About the same height as Jarvis, thicker and also faster. Another very productive SEC guy, seems like he’d be a good OLB in the value rounds for depth and development. A team like the Steelers IMO would be a good fit because I don’t see Tomlin allowing any BS, and the players buy into the team concept. I think the notoriety will blow over pretty quickly once the pads are on.

  • Steve

    If the Steelers were going into camp and Jerome was asked would he room with Sam? Would he be the 10% and say ok and walk the talk? It is easy to say the correct things but living them is another.

  • Craig

    Are you implying that gay men are like predators and will seek an opportunity to prey upon their teammates when they go to sleep? Get your head out of your arse.

  • Steve

    Not implying a thing, just bringing up a point. Seams like you got the problem.

  • Craig

    Which is what? No really enlighten me on what is your point and then what my “problem” is?

  • StrengthOfVictory

    More than anything, I hope (for all parties involved) that the lens through which this young man is evaluated will be his skills as a football player. Not a gay football player. If he succeeds, he should be given his due as one man at his position. If he fails or struggles, he should be held responsible, likewise, as one man at his position.

    Peyton Manning isn’t one of the best white quarterbacks, he’s one of the best quarterbacks. Calvin Johnson isn’t one of the best black wide receivers, he’s one of the best wide receivers.

    Michael Sam shouldn’t have the road of opportunity laid out for him with a label on it — to (potentially) become “one of the best gay defense linemen,” but rather one of the best defensive lineman.

    In short, I hope the media leads the way in examining and evaluating this young man as a football player — first above anything and everything else.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    He openly labeled himself by declaring he’s gay.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Interesting scenario you bring up. I can see how that would tend to make someone sleeping in close proximity…uncomfortable.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Yes and no. Yes, he drew attention to it first, but only because he’d rather (I imagine) be in charge of his own voice/press on this matter. If he’s drafted in the NFL, then people will notice him wherever he goes, who he goes there with, and what sort of attention he pays his “company.” He can wait until the tabloids have a field day with pictures of him on a date (and deal with the firestorm of questions that follow), or he can clear the air now, giving the media no ammunition.

    I don’t think he wants to achieve special recognition, but if the information about his lifestyle is going to be made public regardless, he’s choosing that it be on his terms. Nothing wrong with that.

  • James Kling

    Teams were asking his agent about the issue. He didn’t do this for the publicity, he did it to keep attention on him as a player rather than his sexual orientation. Some teams will have a problem with that. I hope the Steelers are not one of them.

  • 20Stoney

    The only way it makes me uncomfortable is if he crawls in bed with me, and I don’t see that happening. I’d be a lot more uncomfortable rooming with someone like Charles Haley and somebody must of done that. Bottom line is if the guy can play, he’ll be accepted by most.

  • Tom

    Your problem is that you over reacted to his post. Apparently, you read things into it that were not there.

  • Steve

    Charles Haley is the only guy with 5 SuperBowl victories, wouldn’t you like to know about them?

  • Brendon Glad

    Especially with the way the young man handled the interview. When he spoke of “the stigma of Gay athletes as potential ‘locker-room-predators’” and the fact that he considers that offensive because he’s a professional and the locker-room is his professional environment, I thought that was a tremendous thing to point out, and however many or few players still have that irrational fear of being groped or eyed in the locker room probably took a step-back and said, “hmmmm…that makes a lot of sense how he just explained that.”

  • Brendon Glad

    From what I understand about camp, you don’t “pick your roommate”. The team picks it for you. And veterans usually get dibs and get assigned to guys they already know…and rookies with rookies. So the short answer is two-pronged: “no, he wouldn’t…because he wouldn’t be asked to.” UNLESS Sam proved his NFL skills enough to eventually become a veteran and become part of that roommate pool that Bettis would be in. At that point, if Bettis were assigned as Sam’s roommate, I would assume the answer would be “Yes, he would.” Reason being, even if Bettis’s recent comments were a fraud, and quietly he was homophobic…for Sam to reach the “veteran roommate pool” as a 3rd-5th round pick, he will have had to both prove himself on and off the field. So I feel it’s an easy question to answer, even though it took awhile…lol.

  • Brendon Glad

    The situation you pondered: “camp roommate”…will go like this (as I understand it)…Sams gets drafted…his roommate pool for camp will involve 6-10 drafted rookies…and all of the undrafted rookie free agents. Different coaches handle that in different ways. most prefer to group them on the same side of the ball…so it facilitates extra-afterhours-study of the playbook. So with all of that in mind, the rookie who throws a hissy-fit about rooming with Sams is playing a dangerous game with his own career. Because forget the obvious bigotry that would involve…it also would be showing an arrogance and prima-donna attitude for a rookie that usually (and in my opinion CORRECTLY) turns off Steelers “powers-that-be”. So I think the “camp roommate-question” is a non-issue. The only thing Sam has to do is just maintain a high standard of professionalism…yeah perhaps he would be wise to be “uber-professional”, just because he’s still breaking ground for a group who has been prejudiced against…but he doesn’t even need to be a good player to accomplish a huge social victory in the sports world. I’m proud of him. I think he will represent the male homosexual athlete very well…(and I have this GUT feeling that he also will be a pretty dang good player.) If he’s around in the 4th or 5th, the Steelers need to think long and hard about him.

  • Brendon Glad

    And the reason I said “male”…is because female homosexual pro athletes have done their groundbreaking long ago and fit in seamlessly on pro teams from everything I’ve seen. my typing the extra word “male” (homosexual pro athletes), because I feel “female” (homosexual pro athletes) are far past “needing help”…is a subtle, but very good sign for the path of our culture. Because I didn’t do it on purpose. I only noticed it as I re-read the comment.

  • Brendon Glad

    Here is what I would say to any pro athlete who has reservations about Sam’s sexual preference. You guys in locker-rooms have been subconsciously dealing with “sexual preference issues” for a long time. Example: Some heterosexual pro athletes are 1) mutually-exclusive with their girlfriend/spouse. 2)Some are single and promiscuous. 3)Some have a girlfriend/spouse but are still being promiscuous. I’m sure that for #1…the guys who are in the #3 category have a sexual preference that perhaps isn’t what you prefer…particularly if you have become friends with the wife/girlfriend of the guy who is #3. And I’m sure that the LESS #3 makes his #3 lifestyle a part of your own life, the more comfortable you are in your work environment. For example, if a teammate in #3 category suddenly asks you to “lie for him” to his partner, or brings girls to the room, or ANYTHING in the work environment that involves a sex act that “bothers you”…then that is what I would call “unprofessional behavior” by #3. And it puts you in a bad spot. I’ve had it happen, and I hate it as well. But you deal with it however you do…and it has nothing to do with wins and losses. So that would be my suggestion to the 10% who actually have religious objections to homosexuality…or have “locker-room predator” fears. You’ve probably dealt with some sort of “sexual preference” issues with a heterosexual teammate at some point. And there is NO evidence that Sam would EVER compromise his own career, and the entire male-homosexual-athlete’s cause by being anything other than UBER-PROFESSIONAL. So the best route for NFL athletes to take is to make sure Bettis’s 5-10% number is zero. To me, I think you’ve probably dealt with more uncomfortable “sexual preference” situations than a gay teammate already, in the ways I listed above.

  • Brendon Glad

    I agree…but Sam is a part of 2 groups (African-American…and homosexual) whom have been exposed to severe prejudice. So I think it’s worth comparing and acknowledging that he has comparisons to being “the Jackie Robinson of the male homosexual integrated pro athlete”…but at the same time, since Jackie Robinson carried that responsibility long ago for the “African American”…he is NOT doing so for them anymore. Jackie Robinson knew that he needed to be “pretty much PERFECT” in professionalism because he had to destroy prejudice (people looking for an excuse to say “see I told you they couldn’t hack it”…etc). So let’s not kid ourselves…and be overly PC…Sam has a responsibility to be more UBER-PROFESSIONAL than is fair for 99.9% of all professionals in our society. Pac-man Jones would not have made a good Jackie Robinson. Nor would have Richie Incognito (had Incognito been carrying a torch for a persecuted segment of people). So yes, Sam being Arthur Ashe-ish, Jackie Robinson-ish, Robin Herman-ish …would be in society’s best interests….Personally, based on his interview (because honestly that’s all I’m going off of)…I think he is going to pass that test with flying colors. He greatly impressed me. I agree, I wish it wasn’t still “a test”…but it is. But i’m confident he will pass…and we will be better as a society for it.

  • Brendon Glad

    Yep…I thought he handled the situation very appropriately. To me, everything he said in that interview exuded what I like in a professional football player. I do not watch NCAAF…but I really think I do a good amateur armchair job of vetting things about players in the NFL pre-draft stuff. And I love the one-on-one interview as a way I do that. Primarily when it jumps out as “extreme professional attitude”…For example, the difference between the public interviews of Peyton manning vs. Ryan Leaf were noteworthy. Another one is when Jones-Drew was asked why a team should draft him and he said, “I think teams will really love how much pride I take in my blocking and blitz pickup”. The fact that he immediately with no hesitation said those words set off triggers in my mind of “I WANT THIS GUY”. I don’t remember specifics…but I remember mewelde moore’s interview at the combine as impressing me in a huge way… On the flip-side, I did not like when Jamain Stephens’ or Tim Worley’s first public interviews that I recalled had them saying “I want to be the greatest OL (or RB) to ever play the game.” I hate that public comment by a rookie on or before draft day. FEEL IT…HOPE IT…like every other NFL rookie on draft day probably feels and hopes…but when you say it, it makes me furrow my brow. Sam blew away that interview…EXUDED “hyper-professional-focus” (the thing I love the most) he’s going to have to really suck at the combine for me not to like him as a potential great piece for a team.

  • Brendon Glad

    The fact that he “came out” both in college and now before the draft as a player in the 3rd-5th round range, shows me an understated confidence in his own abilities that I REALLY like to see in the mid-round guys. Everything about his interview in tandem with his production on a great team in a great conference makes me say, “my money is with Sam to be a very high value pick in anything 4-7″…and I would not complain about it in the 3rd. If a team has the guts to do it earlier…then it my gut says it would not be a mistake…but I see no need for the Steelers to consider him before the 4th. At that point, I want him to be in heavy play as an option.

If you enjoy our content & podcast, feel free to buy us a cup of coffee below.
Shop for 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Nike and New Era Team Gear at Fanatics

Archives