Of all the marquee reality television shows, the one that has utilized current and former NFL players to the greatest extent (and it's really not even that close) is ABC's Dancing With The Stars.
Former NFL standouts Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward are former DWTS champions, and in seasons past, the show has also featured Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp and Jason Taylor coming in second place. Former Houston Texan Jacoby Jones parlayed his 15 minutes of good football into a berth on the show in 2013.
However, those players all had certain things in common. They were either retired or, in the case of Jones, an established player under a lucrative contract.
Michael Sam is neither retired nor established. However, he will reportedly become the first hopeful NFL player to appear on the program this coming season.
As usually happens with any sports news that crosses over into the entertainment genre, TMZ was the first with this story on Monday. Sam, as everyone is well aware, is the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL. He has yet to appear in a regular season game.
As mentioned previously, NFL players have been far more than just a sideshow on DWTS. Because of the physical work and coordination involved, they've generally been among the top performers on the show, to the extent that by about two or three episodes in, you almost forget that they're football players and see them more as legitimate candidates to win a television show disguised as a dance contest.
Michael Sam is dealing with a whole different set of encyclopedias than his NFL predecessors on DWTS. After a rookie year that was, generally speaking, a washout football-wise -- training camp with the Rams before being cut and signed to Dallas's practice squad for a handful of weeks -- Sam reportedly still wants to chase his NFL dream, so much so that he was rumored to be looking forward to participating in the NFL's first combine for veteran players on March 22.
If these DWTS rumors are true, it's unclear what impact the taping schedule would have on Sam's ability to show off his wares for an NFL team. There is the additional risk for Sam that NFL teams would construe his participation on the show as a "lack of focus on the goal of playing football" (even if the workouts for DWTS are probably more strenuous cardio-wise than anything he'd be doing in an NFL gym). Sam should be well aware of these types of perceptions after he reportedly had signed on to do a reality show (produced by Oprah's company) centered around his attempt to make the Rams' 53-man roster. The show plans were canceled after just a few days because of the backlash.
One other view on Sam's decision to do DWTS -- as a fringe player in the league even without the perceived hurdle of being a homosexual trying to blend into an NFL locker room, Sam may see his 15 minutes ticking when it comes to opportunities like these, and he feels the need to strike while the iron's hot. Odds are, a year from now, a berth on a highly rated prime time show for however-many-weeks-he-lasts wouldn't be available, in all likelihood.
So we will wait for confirmation from the show's producers and Sam's camp. Meanwhile, I'm equally intrigued by Charlotte McKinney's reported participation in the upcoming DWTS season.
Who is Charlotte McKinney, you ask? Bite your tongue....
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