Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, didn’t really want to become a national media sensation because of his sexuality, but rather his talent as a football player.
“If I had it my way, I never would have done it the way I did, never would have told it the way I did,” Sam said in GQ‘s Men of the Year issue. “But the recruiters knew, and reporters knew, and they talked to each other, and it got out. If I didn’t have the year I did, nobody would have cared.”
Still, Sam has “no regrets” since paving the way for other athletes to come out of the closet. The defensive end was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but ultimately cut. Then the Dallas Cowboys picked him up to join the team’s 10-man practice squad, which he was cut from, as well.
Currently, Sam is a free agent, and he’s optimistic about his future on the field.
“It looks good to see me in the position I’m in now, because I can show the world how good I am and rise up the ranks,” Sam said. “I’m at the bottom now. I can rise up, show I’m a football player. Not anything else. Just a football player.”
It’s his sexuality, however, that he feels is all too often brought up by the media, which is also particularly obsessed with exposing players’ violent behavior off of the field.
“I’ll say this: I want to become a distraction!” Sam said. “And what I mean is: by making big plays and doing good stuff on the field. Although nobody would print that, because that’s not a story. Gotta keep bringing up the locker-room situation because he’s gay.”
GQ’s Men of the Year issue hits national newsstands on Nov. 25. Take a look at Sam’s full cover below: