After dominating at his position—defensive end—in college, Michael Sam was drafted by the NFL’s then St. Louis Rams in 2014. That was no surprise: he was a unanimous All-American selection and voted defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Athletic Conference—the most competitive in college football—in 2013. Guys like Michael Sam are almost guaranteed at least a shot to make good in the NFL.
But Sam did a brave thing in the months between his last college game and the NFL draft: he publicly came out as gay. No NFL player at that point had come out, though gay players surely existed, and suddenly, Sam’s draft stock tumbled. Some would use his performance at the NFL combine as cover, though players who were far less productive in their college careers went on to be drafted ahead of him and play in the NFL. Sam was picked in the final round of the draft by the Rams, cut in the preseason, played briefly on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, then for the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, and was out of football altogether by the end of 2015.
Now at age 33, Sam is taking another shot at football, this time in Europe. He’s suiting up at his old position for the European League of Football’s Barcelona Dragons, after originally signing with the team earlier this year as a defensive line coach.
Ironically, Barcelona Dragons was the name of a team in the now-defunct NFL Europe league, an operation the U.S.-based sport set up in 1991 in an attempt to export American football to a continent where “football” is actually played with feet. Through the first two weeks of play, the Dragons are 2-0 and tied for first place in the ELF’s Southern Conference; the league has 12 teams distributed evenly across three conferences.
It’s unclear where Sam falls on the Dragons’ depth chart.