NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Missouri All-American Michael Sam could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.
In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports, the defensive end says he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.
"I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out," Sam told the Times.
He added to ESPN: "I am an openly, proud gay man."
The 255-pound Sam participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month after leading the SEC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19), and he is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick.
"It's a big deal," Sam said. "No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL."
In a statement, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said he was "happy for Michael that he's made the decision to announce this."
"Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other," Pinkel said.
The 2014 NFL Draft will be held May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," the NFL said in a statement. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
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