(CBS) – An announcement by a top NFL prospect that he is gay will have a positive impact on football, one local coach says.
University of Missouri defensive end/linebacker Michael Sam came out over the weekend. If he is drafted, as expected, he would be the first openly gay NFL player.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Randall Townsel tells CBS 2’s Jim Williams.
Townsel played at Northern Illinois University and today coaches a high school team on Chicago’s South Side. He says attitudes in football have changed since he started playing more than 30 years ago.
He predicts Sam will find wide acceptance.
“You’re going to have a percentage of people who are not going to accept it or be as receptive, but I think for the most part, the majority will accept him if he can play football,” Townsel says.
There is no doubt Sam can play. He was the defensive player of the year in what’s considered to be the nation’s best college football conference.
That’s how Sam wants to be seen as he approaches the NFL draft.
“If I work hard, if I make plays, that’s all that should matter,” Sam says.
But on Peter King’s widely respected Monday Morning Quarterback website, King quotes one NFL scout as saying: “Unfortunately, this is a lot more OK in society than it is in lots of locker rooms. Some locker rooms are still stuck in the ‘50s.”
It is in those pro football locker rooms where the hazing, even among friends, can be brutal.
Townsel says Sam has already shown he’s plenty tough.
“This is a linebacker, this is a person who loves contact,” the coach says.
Townsel notes Sam told his teammates at the University of Missouri last August he was gay. It appears he was embraced there and he and the team went on to have a great season.