Sam, out of the University of Missouri, announced Sunday he was gay. He said he told his teammates prior to the 2013 season and wanted to make it public before he goes through the NFL Combine and draft screening process. He's project to be a third- to fifth-round pick in May.
Assuming he's drafted, Sam would be the first NFL player to be openly gay. Polian conducted many interviews for the Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts during the draft process. He told ESPN a player's sexual orientation was never on the table as a topic of conversation. He said dealing with the public will be a bigger hurdle for Sam than anything he'll encounter from an NFL club:
"The players will tell you that's the first and only rule of thumb in the NFL. If you can help the team win, you'll be welcomed as a teammate. Obviously, there'll be some public hurdles to cross. I think that'll be the most difficult part because this will be a media event of great magnitude. So the club is going to have to prepare for that and help the players as well as Mr. Sam get through that. But as a football player you'll be treated just that way, as a football player."
Former Bills running back Thurman Thomas indicated a similar sentiment on Twitter. He retweeted several tweets from notable former players such as Shannon Sharpe stating no one in the locker room would care about Sam's orientation.
The NFL released this statement Sunday night upon hearing the news:
"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."
Sam was the SEC defensive player of the year in 2013, recording 11.5 sacks for the Tigers.
Polian was inducted onto the Bills Wall of Fame in 2013. He was the architect of the Super Bowl teams in the 1990s.
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