Michael Sam, a defensive linesman for the University of Missouri football team, publicly came out today. The 24-year-old, who will likely be selected in the early rounds of the NFL draft in May, would be the first publicly-out football player in NFL history.

Sam says he chose to come out now because rumors about his sexuality were beginning to circulate and scouts were approaching his agent asking whether he dated or had been seen with women.

"I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it," said Sam, who gave interviews to the New York Times and ESPN today. "I just want to own my truth."

Sam, a first-team all-American who is projected to be drafted by the third round, came out to his teammates last year.

Mr. Sam came out to two of his friends on the team, Mr. Washington and Marvin Foster, about a year ago. It was not a huge surprise. Mr. Washington was with Mr. Sam when Mr. Sam said he needed to go pick up a friend. He told Mr. Washington that the friend was gay and asked Mr. Washington if that would bother him. Mr. Washington said no, and Mr. Sam came out to him.

When he came out to the rest of the team, they had "varying levels of discomfort," but Sam also said they "supported him from day one."

"Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was," Sam said. "I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who's a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn't care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, 'Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?' I would have said yes."

[image via AP]