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Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Benches Football

Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Benches Football
Michael Sam talks with defensive line coach Keith Willis after he was signed by the Montreal Alouettes. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

By    |   Monday, 17 August 2015 06:47 AM EDT

Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player drafted to the NFL, has stepped away from professional football for the time being, citing his mental health.

"The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health," he wrote on Twitter this past Friday. "Because of that I am going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for the opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon."

According to ESPN, Sam left his current position on the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes on June 12 for personal reasons. He rejoined the team at the end of that month, but did not take the field during the team's first five games.

During his Aug. 7 debut, the defensive end took the field for 12 plays in the Alouettes' 26-23 loss to the Ottawa RedBlacks. He did not record a tackle.

As The Telegraph (UK) reported, Sam had a notable career at the University of Missouri, where he was named defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference for 2013.

Sam came out as gay in Feb. 2014, three months before the NFL draft. He was drafted during the seventh round to the St. Louis Rams. After the draft, President Barack Obama congratulated Sam, writing, "From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove every day that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are."

Sam did not ultimately make the team. He spent some time on the Dallas Cowboys practice team before being released, and went on to sign with the CFL.

"When you decide to be a trailblazer, sometimes that trail gets awfully bumpy," Cyd Zeigler of Outsports told ESPN.

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TheWire
Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player drafted to the NFL, has stepped away from professional football for the time being, citing his mental health.
michael sam, gay, nfl, player, benches, football
298
2015-47-17
Monday, 17 August 2015 06:47 AM
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