Sam made history in May when he became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. The former Missouri standout -- who was named the SEC's co-defensive player of the year as a senior in 2013 after recording 48 tackles and 11.5 sacks -- revealed his sexuality in February, less than a month before the NFL combine.
Sam tells writer Andrew Corsello about his difficult childhood. “Only a handful of people really know how I was raised. Certain family members weren’t…there. They were ghosts. My brothers were the ones who were there. Most of the time, that was scary. I tried to stay away as much as possible.” Despite leaving the house at dawn and returning after dark, he still got beat up frequently. “We called the cops on my brothers so many times I can’t even count. Not only for hurting me. They’d abuse my sisters. Verbally abuse my mom. My brothers were evil people. I don’t have a relationship with them now. They’ve both written me letters from prison. For them to dare to call themselves my brothers—I can’t live with that.”
“I needed football—it was just something to do, an excuse to not be at home,” Sam explains. “When I played in junior high and high school, it was a hobby. I was just trying to get away from something. That was the only reason I did it.” A love for the game developed eventually. “Being with the guys on the team at Hitchcock was my real family. Mizzou was my real family. I loved it. Football was a sense of home. A home I never had.”
The St. Louis Rams selected Sam in the seventh round of this year's draft but cut him in August. Sam later signed with the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad before being waived last month. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones commended Sam for his work ethic in explaining the team's decision to part ways with him. ESPN reported earlier this month that Sam has been in contact with a half-dozen teams.
Sam also tells GQ how he would have preferred to disclose his sexuality a different way.
“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. “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. But I have no regrets. Some people can argue that I had the potential to go higher in the draft. But I think everything happens for a reason. 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. I’m at the bottom now. I can rise up, show I’m a football player. Not anything else. Just a football player.”
The issue will be available nationally on Nov. 25. The individuals featured on the five other covers are Shailene Woodley, Steve Carell, Chris Pratt, Dave Chappelle and Ansel Elgort. The story on Sam can be read here.