Whether or not Michael Sam makes it in the NFL, NBC Sports analyst Bob Costas believes he will be a "significant figure" in league history.
Sam became the first openly gay player to ever be drafted by an NFL team on Saturday when the St. Louis Rams took him. Just like any other seventh-round draft pick, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the University of Missouri still faces an uphill battle to make the roster.
"I think more players will come forward, and in that respect, Michael Sam, no matter what kind of NFL career he has, is a significant figure just like Jason Collins, who hasn't played a minute in the playoffs for the Nets, but nonetheless he's a significant figure in the NBA,'' Costas told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday. "This stuff is moving at warp speed. This kind of acceptance is happening quicker than any of us might have thought, and so I think the NFL is just getting in line with what's happening in society overall."
Sam cried tears of joy and kissed his boyfriend when he got the call from the Rams on Saturday.
The scene elicited a host of reactions on social media — some supportive, some not — including a pair of tweets by Miami Dolphins' second-year cornerback Don Jones, since deleted, that read "omg" and "horrible" to a follower asking about the kiss. Jones has been fined an undisclosed amount by the team and ordered to attend sensitivity training.
"Are there going to be idiots out there who say some stupid stuff? Yeah,'' Sam told reporters in a phone interview on Saturday. "I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about the guy next to me, the guy in front of me. I have to prove myself."
From his future teammates to former Rams great Eric Dickerson and many others, there was support for Sam.
Costas believes Sam should steer clear of social media.
"He should stay away from it because one percent of the people can make a whole lot of noise on social media,'' Costas said. "I guess we should stipulate a lot of good things can happen on social media. You can aggregate people for good causes and awareness, but at the same time, every creep and cretin on the planet can weigh in on every subject and every person, so he ought to stay away from that because it will not reflect how most people feel."
After making history on Saturday, Sam's next challenge is making the Rams roster. St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher, while acknowledging that he is "honored" to be part of history, has also made it clear that he will not hesitate to cut Sam if he doesn't earn a roster spot.
"It's the media culture that we're all a part of, and there's going to be overreactions to it, but I think eventually he'll be judged on his play, and it's entirely possible that he won't make it in the NFL,'' Costas said. "There are a lot of first-round draft choices, highly touted guys, that didn't make it despite all the kind of over-analysis that defies parody that surrounds the NFL draft."
Costas cited two NFL stars — New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, who was picked in the sixth round, and the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning, who was selected at the top of the draft — as evidence that the process is "at best, educated guesswork."
Sam encountered no issues at Missouri after coming out to coaches and teammates six months before he publicly announced he was gay in February.
"Michael Sam is in a good spot at St. Louis because he played at Missouri,'' Costas said. "There were never any problems there with college kids, college coaches, and the head coach of the Rams (Jeff Fisher) is very, very enlightened on this whole thing. He's one of the most respected figures in the league. He'll set a tone. I don't think (Sam) will have much of a problem beyond whether or not he can play well in the league."