Among the hundreds of players eligible for this year's NFL draft, one has come out and announced he's gay.
For all the dramas that will grab center stage each time a big name moves up or down the board, the fate of Michael Sam — and whether he gets a real shot to play at the next level — could wind up trumping them all.
More than a few players and front-office execs have vowed they'd play alongside anyone if he made them a better team. This could be the weekend that claim is put to the test.
Sam is under-sized (6-foot-2, 252 pounds) by NFL standards, so the skills that won him acclaim as one of the top defenders in the top-tier Southeastern Conference won't carry as much weight as it otherwise might with the league's tough-to-impress scouts. The loyalty and respect he garnered among his Missouri teammates, who dutifully kept Sam's secret throughout last season, will count as a character reference but not much more.
Because while Sam was a factor on just about every down as a defensive end in college, predicting how he'll adapt to a role in the pros as a part-time, pass-rushing linebacker and special-teams player is a roll of the dice. What's certain, on the other hand, is that he'll have a media circus in tow wherever he lands.
"I would not hesitate to use a draft pick on him," said Bill Polian, a longtime NFL executive with Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis who is currently working as an ESPN analyst. "He's a hard-nosed football player and there's always room for one of those."
Yet even while saying he thinks Sam's problem won't be with potential teammates — "players won't have any issues with (his sexual orientation) at all" — Polian suggested that by coming out, Sam may have left some front offices skittish.