Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam hasn't made the NFL yet, but he's taken an historic step on the way to get there.

Sam, an All-American and the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, came out as gay to The New York Times and ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday.

There has never been an openly gay NFL player, though free agent NBA center Jason Collins publicly came out as a gay last year. He has not be signed, though he played 14 seasons in the league and was winding down his career regardless of any controversy.

It's a very different case for Sam.

 

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Sam was a consensus All-American last season, finishing with 21 sacks and six forced fumbles in his career. He had 12 sacks this season.

He has been projected as a mid- to late-round pick, mostly due to his lack of size at the position. Scouts are unsure whether he would play defensive end or outside linebacker.

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam told the New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”

Sam said he told his teammates and coaches before the 2013 season began and they were welcoming of him. As he started to undergo the evaluation and scouting process leading up to May's NFL Draft, he felt he needed to publicly acknowledge the rumors.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage," the league said in a statement released Sunday. “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.”

Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.

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