He's already made history -- can Michael Sam make an impact in the NFL?
MAY 10, 2014 11:12p ET
ST. LOUIS -- Michael Sam is motivated and ready to work.
That's the family-friendly way to say it, anyway.
The newest St. Louis Ram, who made history Saturday when he became the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, used more colorful language to describe his readiness level in a 10-minute conference call with local reporters.
"The 2013 (Southeastern Conference's) co-Defensive Player of the Year is ready to (seven-letter expletive-deleted adverb) show the world that he is also ready to work," Sam said.
But the Rams' seventh-round pick, a unanimous All-American defensive end in his senior season at Missouri last fall, wasn't finished with his proclamations.
"Let me tell you something," Sam continued. "If we were playing the Vikings right now, I'll probably have three sacks the first game."
That's the kind of attitude the 24-year-old Texas native -- the 249th out of 256 selections in the three-day, seven-round draft -- will have to have as he begins his NFL career with the Rams and tries to earn a roster spot as a rookie this fall.
He's been a long shot before, of course. Sam willed and worked his way from an unheralded two-star recruit when he graduated from Hitchcock (Texas) High School in 2009 to an All-American as a fifth-year senior in 2013 at Mizzou and now an NFL draft pick.
Now he starts all over again as a rookie with nothing more guaranteed than an opportunity to prove that he belongs at this level.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a seventh-round draft pick himself (by the Chicago Bears in 1981), said he was surprised Sam was still available in the latter stages of the seventh round Saturday night.
The coach discussed selecting Sam with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and chief operating officer/executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff before making the historic choice.
"That's a football player with ability that you just can't pass up," Fisher said. "We discussed it privately with Kevin and Mr. Kroenke and felt like it was the right thing to do at the right time."
Sam said he thought he should have gone higher.
“They didn't have the (guts) that St. Louis had. No one had the (guts) that St. Louis has, and I'm proud to give everything that I've got for St. Louis.”
"You know what, in all honesty, from last season alone I should have been a high (pick), first three rounds, you know?" Sam said. "SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Unanimous All-American. I should have gone in the top three rounds. Easily. You know what? It is what it is and I'm happy to be on the St. Louis Rams. Everything else is history."
Yes, it is.
Now Sam must show what he can do as a pass-rushing defensive end on a Rams team that might have the best defensive line in the NFL, led by ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long and defensive tackles Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford and new first-round pick Aaron Donald.
Sam will try to prove in the NFL that he can make an impact like he did at the college level, where he had 11 1/2 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in 14 games for Mizzou as a senior.
"When you talk about Michael Sam, you put him in our category of DPR, which is 'designated pass rusher,'" Rams general manager Les Snead said. "That's what he fits in our scheme and obviously, we like to rush the passer."
That's fine with Sam. He agreed with that assessment.
"I am a pass rusher," he said. "I sack quarterbacks, that's my main job."
But it won't be easy at the next level. If Sam's not aware of that yet, he'll find out soon enough.
Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said the NFL is all about production and you're really only as good as your last performance.
"Every day is an interview," Laurinaitis said. "(Defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams says that all the time to us: Every single day is an interview and you're interviewing either in a positive way or a negative way. So the best way (Sam) can make our football team is just come in and work and make plays. Prove that he knows the playbook. When he gets in here and studies, prove that you know it mentally.
"When that time comes around (to get out on the field for training camp) the more and more he has opportunities on the field to make plays and get out there and just do what he did at Mizzou. I think that will better suit him and that's his best chance of making it for us."
Sam plans to do everything in his power to do just that.
He wants to prove that he can play in the NFL and he wants to show that the Rams made a smart decision by taking a chance on him.
Asked late in his conference call with reporters Saturday what other teams he was talking to, Sam said it didn't matter.
"They didn't have the (guts) that St. Louis had," he said. "No one had the (guts) that St. Louis has, and I'm proud to give everything that I've got for St. Louis."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.