This is not specific to the 49ers, but it's about as big a story as we'll see this year, and potentially for the foreseeable future. In an interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has come out as gay. Sam was SEC co-defensive player of the year, an All-American, and could end up as a day two or day three draft pick. If drafted, he would become the first active NFL player to have publicly announced he was gay.
Sam is eligible for this year's draft, and is projected as anywhere from a third to fifth round pick. He will be attending the Combine in a week and a half, and then will have his Pro Day. As I understand it from all the information floating around, he came out to his teammates last summer. He was planning on coming out publicly at some point, but according to Outsports' exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the story (they are part of the SB Nation network), the initial plan was after the Combine.
However, as would be expected, as the story gained momentum, it was getting harder to keep the story out of the news. Several sources had learned about it, but all did not break it, rather waiting for Sam to make the announcement himself. Naturally, there is now a flood of articles on this, and there will be plenty more moving forward. The media coverage at the Combine will be a zoo, as will his Pro Day. And I can't even imagine what the first day of training camp will be wherever he ends up.
Whatever team Michael Sam ends up with, congrats to him for having the guts to take a huge step in the continued battle for equality on all levels. In the Outsports article, there was a good point about how he would not be an activist at parades and events promoting LGBT rights. Rather, his impact on this would be playing in the NFL this coming season. That will have a bigger impact than a million speeches.
In getting out in front of this story, it will hopefully allow Michael to slowly work toward focusing on draft preparation. It will be a circus for the foreseeable future, but hopefully he can eventually get to a point where he leads a relatively normal life. From a football perspective, he has been playing defensive end, but likely has to switch to outside linebacker. He's 6'1, 260 pounds, and that just won't cut it at defensive end. CBS Sports projects him as a third-rounder, and says he compares to Elvis Dumervil. Mel Kiper said on Sportscenter that he views him as a fourth round pick, and maybe a third round pick.
Opinions vary to some extent, but it seems like he should be drafted. Publicly everybody is supporting him, but now we'll see what things will really be like with a gay draft prospect. We can finally move past hypotheticals and really see how this plays out.