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Former Missouri standout Sam comes out

Columbia, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and former Missouri standout defensive end Michael Sam announced that he is gay in an ESPN "Outside the Lines" interview on Sunday.

In the interview, Sam stated that he revealed his sexual orientation to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August of 2013.

Sam is considered a prospect for the upcoming NFL Draft and should he be selected, could become the NFL's first openly gay player. He is projected by most scouting services to be taken in the middle rounds.

His decision to publicly announce his sexual orientation stemmed from his participation in the Senior Bowl two weeks ago, where Sam said he learned that many were already aware that he was gay.

"Coaches just wanted to know a little about ourselves, our majors, where we're from, and something that no one knows about you," Sam said in the interview. "And I used that opportunity just to tell them that I was gay. And their reaction was like, 'Michael Sam finally told us.' "

At the conclusion of the 2012-13 NBA season, 12-year veteran Jason Collins announced he was gay in a Sports Illustrated article. MLS player Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay professional athlete to play in a game in the U.S. when he appeared in an MLS game in May of last year.

"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," said the NFL in a statement. "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."

Division III Willamette University kicker Conner Mertens became the first active college football player to announce he was gay when he came out last month.

02/09 21:35:43 ET

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