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WATCH: Michael Sam: ‘Great Things Can Happen When You Have the Courage to Be Yourself’

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NFL player Michael Sam accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award onstage during the 2014 ESPYS at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

NFL player Michael Sam accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award onstage during the 2014 ESPYS at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (KMOX) - St. Louis Rams draftee Michael Sam delivered a moving speech upon receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS Wednesday night.

The former Missouri defensive end announced earlier this year that he is gay. He will try to make the Rams’ roster when training camp opens, and if he does, he would be the NFL’s first openly gay player.

Throughout his speech, Sam teared up, and his voice faltered at times.

“The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a big honormuch bigger than just me,” he said.

Sam’s acceptance speech was structured around a famous line from the tennis icon, who was known for fighting discrimination and advocating for AIDS awareness.

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,” Sam quoted.

He noted, “Those were the words to live by, whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay.”

Sam said he was grateful for Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel and his high school coach Craig Smith, who knew his story and “did everything humanly possible to give it a better ending.”

Sam said that football raised him and taught him about hard work, and encouraged listeners to follow whatever passion or talent they have.

“I followed mine, and it got me all the way to this stage here tonight, so I can look out and see so many of my heroes looking back at me,” he said.

Sam said he has a responsibility to stand up for everyone out there who wants nothing more than to be themselves openly. He then shared an experience in which a friend asked him to speak to his sister, who was considering killing herself rather than share with her loved ones that she was gay. To massive applause, Sam said that his example had helped the woman reconsider.

“Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself,” he told the audience before leaving the stage.

WATCH below:

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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