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Journalism Showcase: SportsCenter Catches Up With Michael Sam

Sunday's SC Featured profiles Sam, who in 2014 became the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL. He's now playing in Europe and reflecting on his journey

Eight years ago, Michael Sam made headlines worldwide when he became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL.

But after being cut by two NFL teams and retiring from a CFL team for what he described as mental health reasons, he left football.

In Sunday’s SportsCenter “SC Featured” segment, reporter Chris Connelly will bring viewers the latest details in Sam’s story. Sam has resurfaced in the European League of Football (ELF), playing for the Barcelona Dragons. Connelly met Sam in Spain to discuss his life since leaving football and his return to the game he loves.

“Michael Sam: The Unfinished Story,” produced by Daniela Marulanda, will debut in the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter on Sunday, Aug. 7, and will re-air in other editions afterward.

Connelly spoke with Front Row:

How did it come about for you to talk with Michael and again tell his story?
[Producer] Luis Aldea reached out to the Barcelona Dragons of the ELF. He had a few conversations with the team, and then I got on the phone with Michael to talk more about our coming over to Spain and speaking with him and some of the other players on the team, whom he hopes might be able to play in the States someday.

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Was it difficult to get him to talk? How much of a factor was previous experience with him?
I certainly think it did help that we had history together – that we’d talked on Feb. 9, 2014 — the day he came out to the world. It can be hard for any of us to understand and appreciate fully what his coming out meant – to him, to the LGBTQ community, to the NFL, and to the world as a whole – and the price he paid for his courage. As you might well expect, I think he has nuanced thoughts and feelings about what happened in 2014 and 2015. He shared those with us, along with telling us a great deal about his life on the team today. Then and now, he’s always been great to talk with: warm, thoughtful, enlightening, forthright, and from the heart, whether it’s about his own life or about football, which he continues to love.

Did he reveal anything unexpected?
I’ll be interested to see what other people find surprising and unexpected about what he shared with us. His thoughts about being a hero to so many, what that felt like to him, caught my attention; so did his gratitude to the game he plays.

He was candid about some of the disappointments he’s experienced along the way and that his life journey remains exactly that – a journey. This isn’t the story of someone who’s figured it all out. This is the story of someone who’s still figuring it out … and I think his honesty about that is compelling to hear.

Chris Connelly (L) interviews Michael Sam in Spain for SC Featured. (Daniela Marulanda/ESPN)
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