NFL prospect Michael Sam, a defensive end coming out of Missouri, introduced himself on Sunday as a football player who happens to be gay.
Will this be the cause of major teams looking past Sam in the draft? Maybe.
Will this be considered a “distraction” like some media sources are claiming? Probably not.
Will the Philadelphia Eagles look past Sam during the 2014 draft? Absolutely not.
Philadelphia has had its fair share of hardships with players and their personal lives throughout many seasons. But, the way I see it, it has only continued to make the team stronger.
Five years ago, the Eagles blew the minds of many, and signed quarterback Michael Vick after he had spent 21 months in Leavenworth Federal Prison. Vick plead guilty in August 2007 on federal charges in the Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting investigation. On August 13th, 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick on a one-year contract. This caused a huge uproar, not only in Philadelphia, but for sports fans everywhere. There was a lot of controversy and fans had strong feelings about this decision.
Did that stop the Eagles’ from coming together as a team? Once again, absolutely not.
On the field, Vick was their teammate. What he did off the field was not focused on during the time he spent with his teammates. Sure, it was wrong and all the players knew that. But, it is more important to stay focused on the game and that is exactly what the players did. The decision to put Vick on the team and treat him as a teammate does not under any circumstances mean that they agree with the decisions he made off the football field.
Another instance where the Eagles’ strength as a team was tested, happened last summer. The Eagles wide receiver, Riley Cooper, was found on video using one of the most vulgar and disrespectful racial slurs in the American language. The media went crazy, which does not come as a surprise.
This situation started numerous rumors and put a strain on the team for the time being. It was said that Cooper continuing to play on the team would create more than just racial tension and cause problems within the relationships on the team.
But, the media thought this was the breaking point for the team. The media didn’t think they would be able to come back from this difficult situation. The media wasn’t aware of just how strong and capable the Philadelphia Eagles really are. The players handled the situation like men, which is something that people should think about right now after Sam’s coming out.
Sam telling the public about his own personal life, that has nothing to do with football whatsoever, is not even a comparison to the Vick crime and Cooper scandal. Although the media is going to treat it that way until they have something else to talk about.
When you think of an NFL locker room, what do you think about? Crazy, hyped up men wearing football jerseys and yelling at one another? Yes, that goes on. On another hand, we do not see the team community and sportsmanship that happens behind the scenes.
Vick was recognized right away by his teammates as a strong quarterback and throughout the first few weeks of his arrival on the team, he became more and more respected by the fans, too.
Cooper had a lot of work to do. He apologized numerous times and had to deal with the fact that some people were going to have trouble forgiving him right away.
Media coverage is a big deal; actually, it is a huge deal when it is first put out there for everyone to hear. It always gets better though. I think that is something that the Philadelphia Eagles have learned the hard way but has benefited them in the long run.
Look at how successful the Eagles’ were this season after the Cooper video was released. I’m not saying that is the reason they were successful- not at all. But, they persevered through all of the bad talk, put downs, and overcame the accusations.
A team making a decision to look past Sam as a potential player for their team solely because of the media attention he is currently receiving is really ridiculous. That would make a team look weak and frankly, I wouldn’t want to be a part of a team that acts that way.
The Philadelphia Eagles are going to look at Sam as a prospect as an outside linebacker for the upcoming season because his personal life has nothing to do with the player he is on the football field. They are going to look at him like they are going to look at every other possible choice.
If the Eagles make the decision to pass up their opportunity to draft Sam, I can tell you right now, it is not because he is gay. It is only because he is not the right fit for the team and what they are looking for.
But, he is the right fit for a team somewhere and they’d be lucky to have him. The Eagles have proved that.