Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam hopes to be the NFL's first openly gay player.
In multiple interviews published Sunday night, Sam a USA TODAY All-America pick last season and potential mid-round NFL draft pick in May revealed he is gay.
'I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,' Samtold theNew York Times. 'I just want to own my truth.'
Sam, whoalso spoke with ESPN, said he came out to his Missouri teammates before last season. But he didn't go public until Sunday.
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'We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage,' the NFL said 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.'
Sam led the Southeastern Conference last season with 101/2 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. The Associated Press named him SEC defensive player of the year.
His representatives had spread the word to NFL teams recently he planned to come out before this month's NFL scouting combine.
On Saturday night, Sam had dinner with a group including former NFL punter Chris Kluwe and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who both have been outspoken in their support of gay rights.
No NFL player has announced publicly he's gay while his career is active. Several former players, including Kwame Harris and Esera Tuaolo, have said they're gay after retiring.
There is anti-discrimination language in the collective-bargaining agreement. In April 2013, the NFL also sent a sexual orientation anti-discrimination and harassment policy to all club presidents, coaches and general managers, who shared it with their staff.