ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis/AP) — Michael Sam’s former roommate says the openly gay football player has changed since college.
Eric Waters, Sam’s teammate at the University of Missouri who was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted tight end, told the Tribune-Review that Sam is not the “fun-loving” guy he once knew.
“He is a nice guy, but I will say the truth: A little bit of him has changed,” Waters told the Tribune-Review. “It is really not my situation to speculate at this point, but he is not the same Michael Sam anymore.”
Waters continued: “Just the way he acts and carries himself. I was watching the NFL Network the other day and I think it was Marshall Faulk who said that he keeps referring to himself in the third person as Michael Sam this, Michael Sam that. That’s not the same guy we knew back when we were living together. He is not the same fun-loving, joking guy that really didn’t care about stuff like publicity.”
Despite considering Sam a good friend, Waters said they do not talk anymore.
“I don’t know if that is because he is more focused on the fame and the opportunity he has now or whatever,” Waters told the Tribune-Review.
Waters also stated he never had a problem with Sam being gay.
“Like I tell everybody else, I don’t care about your sexual preference or if you are black or white or freaking purple,” Waters explained to the Tribune-Review. “As long as you can play football, that’s all that matters. We had a common denominator: We were brought to the same university because we had the ability to play football. That’s all that matters.”
Sam became the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL when the St. Louis Rams selected him in the seventh round. There has been no visible dissent in camp whatsoever regarding Sam.
Nowadays, players asked how Sam is fitting in might answer with a question themselves: Why is this still a big deal? They are liable to respond with a shrug when asked what it’s like having an openly gay teammate in the locker room, or whether it’s an issue having Sam showering next to them.
Move on already, they say.
“The NFL is a huge melting pot, people from different walks of life, backgrounds, family backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, all that stuff,” defensive end Chris Long said. “So people are used to playing with people who are not the same as them in any way.”
The bottom line is it’s “pretty easy” for players to adjust, Long said.
The team has treated Sam just like most of their players, despite the extra attention. It removed the backdrop that had been in place for Fisher for a six-minute post-practice scrum interview with Sam on Tuesday, a message that it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Yet, the NFL Network had a camera and boom mike trailing Sam strolling to the locker room.
The Rams plan to limit availabilities the rest of camp for a player who after all is a seventh-round pick.
Sam appeared confident, even cocky about his chances, saying he thought questions about his sexual orientation would cease “when I lay somebody out that first game.” He was brash enough to deconstruct a few questions and wait to have them rephrased, but also joked some, too, saying he lost 13 pounds preparing for special teams duty “because I want to run fast, don’t you?”
Sam came out as gay before his senior year at Missouri and judging by the results, it was no distraction at all. The Tigers made a seven-win improvement and tied the school record with 12 wins. Sam was co-SEC defensive player of the year.
“If you look at our season, it didn’t hurt us at all,” said cornerback E.J. Gaines, a fellow rookie and former Missouri teammate. “If anything, it brought us closer.”
It was impressive that everyone kept Sam’s announcement to themselves.
“Mike doesn’t like to refer to it as a secret,” Gaines said. “It was just something that when he’s ready to tell people, he’s ready to tell people, and he was ready to tell us.”