TEMPE, Ariz. – Players selected in the first and second rounds of the draft were among the participants in the first NFL Veteran Combine Sunday, but it was one chosen in the seventh who drew most of the media attention.
Michael Sam, the league’s first openly gay player, continues to be a story, although the topic has shifted from having a first chance to make a roster to seeking a third opportunity.
“I did the best I can,” Sam told reporters after taking part in on-field drills with a group of defensive linemen who were part of the 105 players invited to the Veteran Combine. “I did just as good, if not better, than the other guys here. So I’m pretty confident about that.”
Last year, after being drafted by the St. Louis Rams, Sam was released before the start of the regular season. Shortly thereafter, the former standout defensive end at Missouri joined the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, but was released on Oct. 21.
Sam said he still has a burning desire to play professional football, whether the opportunity comes from another NFL team or even the Canadian Football League.
“As long as I stay healthy and I still train, I think my chance of being on a team is quite high, in my own view,” he said. “As long as I still have that will, as long as I’m still healthy and can play this game, you will continue on seeing me fighting to get in this league.”
But he does have other pursuits off the field. Sam is a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and was expected to return to California, where he has been training for football, to be part of Monday night’s live show.
Sam insisted he has never thought of walking away from the game.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m young. Clearly, I didn’t play last year. But, I mean, I’m still good. I don’t have any injuries. I’m good to play.”
In running the 40-yard dash Sunday, Sam had an unofficial clocking of 5.02 seconds, which is slow for an edge rusher. One offensive lineman ran faster.
What did Sam take from his NFL experience last year?
“I learned from the guys,” he said. “I learned from the best – Chris Long, Robert Quinn, and some of the guys at the Cowboys. Those guys taught me a lot. I used that” Sunday. “And hopefully, when I get back on another team, I can use what they taught me to better my career.”