Sam says his focus is on football

Michael Sam, Jim Popp

On his second day in Canada, Michael Sam says his priority is helping the Montreal Alouettes win, not making history as the first openly gay player in the Canadian Football League.

Sam was signed to a two-year deal by the Alouettes last week. He was introduced at a news conference in Montreal Tuesday.

The 25-year-old Sam came out before last year’s NFL draft. He was selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams to become the first openly gay player chosen by an NFL team.

The Rams cut him in training camp. The Dallas Cowboys signed him to their practice squad but released him in October.

Alouettes general manager Jim Popp, who called Sam a “trail-blazing athlete,” says he believes Sam can excel as pass-rusher in the CFL.

Sam starred at Missouri in college, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honours in 2013. After he came out, his NFL jersey was an instant bestseller and U.S. President Barack Obama publicly congratulated Sam and the Rams.

“I’m focused on Montreal,” Sam said in answer to a question about leaving the NFL. “I’m here to help this team win games.”

He admitted he was new to Montreal but pointed out two of his old college teammates are playing in the CFL.

“This is my second day in Canada. My first was yesterday. If you see me walking downtown, please stop and say hello to me,” Sam said.

“I know the first language is French so I need to pick on my French skills real soon. I have a lot of learning to do in this city, in this country.”

With his fellow Alouettes, the conversation “is always about football,” he said.

But Sam is keenly conscious of the role he has given himself as a pioneer.

“When I’m not training I’m doing whatever I can to inspire people.”

“The moment when I was comfortable with my sexual orientation was my senior year in college. Eventually, it was going to come out anyways. I’m owning my truth and not a lot of people can say that.”

– with files from the Canadian Press