As we've come to learn in the last five days, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has been and will be a game changer in several ways.
In the most conventional football fashion, Sam was a game changer on the field as his 11.5 sacks led the SEC in 2014. The final image he left on the college game was a strip sack and forced fumble that teammate Shane Ray returned for a game sealing touchdown in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State.
Off the field, Sam broke new ground on Sunday night, announcing to the world that he is a homosexual, making him the first openly gay athlete to play in the NFL (assuming he makes a roster, which seems to be a formality, although opinions on his stock widely vary). This, presumably, will pave the way for other gay athletes to do the same.
That's the idea, at least.
Those are indeed the big picture ways in which Michael Sam is a game changer, but let's not forget about how his profile effects those around him, his family and his business associates.
For example, the agency with whom Sam has chosen to cast his lot, Empire Athletics, is now playing on a bigger stage. If you peruse their client list, it is dotted with largely former NFL practice squad players and small college dreamers. Now, all of a sudden, they have an SEC Defensive Player of the Year who is the most talked about athlete in the country over the last six days.
In the agency business, a signing like Sam, along with a successful execution of a career launch with so many layers, this is how Empire Athletes truly becomes, well, an empire.
To that end, Rich Lord and I interviewed Cameron Weiss, one of Sam's agents from Empire, earlier this week on our radio show, and we discussed Sam's first few days post announcement, the wild fluctuations in draft stock, and where the ideal landing spots might be for his client.
Here are the most notable excerpts from Weiss: On what segment of the populace has surprised him with his reaction:
"I think I've been positively surprised by all of it. I knew there were going to be a lot of people who I thought would embrace [Sam's decision]. I guess I thought there would be more people on the other side of the fence. So far the only negatives have come from anonymous sources, who for all I know could be some guy walking down the street. Everything I've seen has been a pleasant surprise, it says a lot about the league, and a lot about our country as a whole."
On marketing opportunities for Sam:
"I'm not gonna lie, my phone's been ringing off the hook. My partner Joe's phone [Joe Barkett] has been ringing off the hook. We're going to be strategic about this with Mike, because we don't want to create a situation where it seems like he's exploiting [his announcement], because that's just not the case. Mike told this to the world because he is who he is, he wanted to tell the story his way, and frankly as far as we're concerned that was the only goal here."
On Sam's wild draft stock fluctuation after his announcement:
"To give you guys some perspective, the last seven SEC Defensive Players of the Year have all gone in the first round, so it would be a story unto itself if he didn't go in the first round. The ability is clearly there. If there is some fall down the draft board, minus him falling short in the combine and his pro day, I think people would look at that skeptically."
On people suspecting that Sam was gay before the announcement:
"It's very valid, I was asked directly about it and indirectly about it, so it was known and it wasn't just among the scouts, it was among others close to the game, like reporters. It was circulating out there. We weren't trying to beat anyone to the punch, but at the same time, I think every human being deserves to talk about their life on their terms and that's why we did what we did."
On what the ideal situation is for Michael Sam:
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"The ideal situation for Michael Sam is to go to a team that is embracing him, to a locker room that is ready for this, and for him to just go play football."
On Bible Belt cities being averse to Sam:
"I don't buy that. Atlanta is in the middle of the Bible Belt and they've been one of the most interested teams in him. Likewise, New Orleans has been interested in him. Those are great landing spots for him. Whatever team selects Michael, they're doing it because they're ready for him and wanting to embrace him and the situation."