Lions president Tom Lewand issued a statement today on Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who revealed that he is gay.
“As an organization and football team, the Detroit Lions place the highest priority on inclusiveness and diversity,” Lewand said. “We applaud Michael Sam for his courage and proactive approach, and we will evaluate him, like every player, based solely on his ability to help the Lions win football games.”
Sam, a defensive end for Missouri, made the announcement in interviews with the New York Times and ESPN on Sunday.
He will enter the NFL as the league’s first openly gay player.
Sam, who is 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, is ranked as the 11th best defensive end among draft prospects, according to CBSSports.com.
Sam was the 2013 SEC defensive player of the year and is expected to be drafted in the third or fourth round. The NFL draft is May 8-10.
Scouts and players reacted to his news on Sunday with mixed feelings on whether Sam will be able to fit in with his NFL teammates.
Many fans on Twitter said they are concerned with only one thing — can he help their team win? That’s their biggest concern about any draft pick.
Teams, like the Lions, are going on the record today.
“I think you definitely have to feel he’s a courageous young man but my understanding is he’s a talented young player,” coach Mike McCarthy said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “We always from Day 1 talked about our program, about our culture. Ted (general manager Ted Thompson) is going through draft process right now and at the end of the day, it comes down to good football players.
“Any player who can come here and be a good teammate and follow the rules of our program, which is one be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy,’’ McCarthy told the Press-Gazette.
Sam is expected to participate in the NFL Combine which begins on Feb. 20 in Indianapolis.