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Missouri All-American out of closet

University of Missouri All-American football player Michael Sam says he is gay, and the defensive end could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL.

In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports, Sam says he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.

“I am an openly, proud gay man,” he said.

The 116-kilogram Sam participated led the Southeastern Conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19), and he is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick.

“It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL,” he said in the interviews.

There have been numerous NFL players who have come out after their playing days, including Kwame Harris and Dave Kopay.

Last year, NBA player Jason Collins announced he was gay after the season. Collins, a 35-year-old backup center, was a free agent and has not signed with a new team this season. MLS star and U.S. national team player Robbie Rogers also came out a year ago.

Division III Willamette kicker Conner Mertens said last month he was bisexual.

“We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage,” the NFL said in 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 said many people at the Senior Bowl all-star game for NFL prospects seemed to know that he was gay.

“I didn't realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me,” he told ESPN. “I want to own my truth ... No one else should tell my story but me.”

Before coming out to all his teammates and coaches, Sam said he told a few close friends and dated another Missouri athlete who was not a football player.

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In this Jan. 1, 2014, file photo, Missouri senior defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media during an NCAA college football news conference in Irving, Texas. (AP)

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