James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Michael Sam myth

On the October 3 Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend podcast, the Sklar Brothers said no NFL team would take Michael Sam because he was openly gay.

As they know, Sam was eventually drafted, in the last round by the Rams.But I know what they meant. You would think the SEC Defensive Player of the Year should be a high-round NFL pick, so that the only reason he fell so far was that NFL teams feared signing a gay player.

But that is itself a prejudicial view. A simpler explanation exists: Sam couldn't play in the NFL.

Remember that in 1995 and '96, Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald was two-time national Defensive Player of the Year. He didn't fall in the draft; he went undrafted and never played a down in the NFL.

Fitzgerald was a great college player, but not a good enough athlete for the NFL.  Lots of college players use their smarts to become great at that level; a high school classmate of mine was all-Big Ten at corner and then safety, and led the conference in interceptions twice. He never got any interest from NFL scouts.

Sam had a poor NFL combine that revealed to scouts that he wasn't athletic enough to help teams win.Was he given a fair chance? Well, Tim Tebow,in his next-to-last game, beat the defending AFC Champions but never played a down at quarterback since the 2011 season. Teams were unanimous that he couldn't play quarterback even after he won at quarterback. With both Sam and with Tebow, NFL teams had seen enough.

Coaches and General Managers are loathe to reject a player they believe will help them win games. Only poorly-run teams, if any, were scared off by Sam. Because if Michael Sam could play in the NFL, even as a situational player, he'd be on the Seahawks or Patriots roster today.

It therefore does Sam a disservice to suggest that he's out of the NFL because he's openly gay. In fact, it is a tribute to his intelligence and hard work that he became such a great college player despite his athletic limitations.

Like Fitzgerald, he should get into coaching.

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