By the end of Sam’s college career, he had accumulated six forced fumbles, 19 tackles for a loss, 21 sacks and 123 tackles. Sam was named Southeastern Conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-SEC selection and he capped off an impressive senior year by forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown cementing a Missouri victory in the 2014 Cotton Bowl.
Heading into the National Football League draft, Sam was projected to be a third round pick. However, a combination of being undersized for the position of defensive end and a poor combine raised questions about Sam’s speed and versatility.
By the time the draft rolled around in May, Sam was ranked between 12th and 25th among defensive ends, projecting him as a fifth to sixth round pick. But as the draft went on, Sam continued to slide all the way down to pick 249 when the St. Louis Rams drafted him.
Sam slid further than any other SEC defensive player of the year in the last five years. C.J. Mosley, Sam’s co-award winner went to the Baltimore Ravens with the 17th overall pick of the draft. The last 11 SEC defensive players of the year were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft but Sam fell all the way to the end of the seventh round.
Handling the disappointment of the draft with class, Sam showed up to the St. Louis Rams training camp ready to prove he belonged. Unfortunately, a media circus also showed up and with them they brought the baggage that has held Sam down.
From all accounts, the Rams loved Sam, head coach Jeff Fisher loved Sam and Sam’s teammates loved Sam. He finished the preseason with 10 tackles and three sacks. To put that in perspective, 12 players had 2.5 or more sacks in the preseason, 10 are on main rosters, one is on a practice squad and the other was Sam.
The Rams cut Sam as they made final trims to their roster. The NFL is fine with domestic abuse, drunk driving and dog fighting, but there wasn’t a roster spot for a gay player. Granted players like Michael Vick were proven stars, but not one NFL coach or general manager has said Sam can’t play because the truth is he can play in the NFL.
After being released by the Rams, Sam went unclaimed off waivers and it looked as though his NFL dreams were going to be put on hold. Rumors started that the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League were going to sign Sam. Then as if the story didn’t already have enough drama it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys had signed Sam to their practice squad giving him another chance to make it to the NFL.
Just before the start of the season Sam tweeted: “The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.” Sam’s journey continues on the practice roster with the Dallas Cowboys as he will continue to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
Graphic: Stephanie Mah/Graphics Editor