The Texas native, who was an All-American defensive lineman for the Missouri Tigers in college, publicly announced that he was gay back in February, shortly before he appeared at the NFL Scouting Combine. Although his Mizzou teammates had already known and supported him for months, Sam opened himself up to scrutiny with the announcement.
Before Sam accepted the award, viewers were taken on his emotional journey, as he nervously waited to be drafted into the NFL after his big announcement, finally getting called on by the St. Louis Rams as the 249th overall pick (out of 256).
When Sam finally got up to accept the award, it was hard not to a get a little teary-eyed during his speech. In addition to quoting Arthur Ashe's wise words -- "Start where you are. Use what you have. And do what you can." -- Sam added some wisdom of his own.
“Those were words to live by. Whether you’re white or black. Young or old. Straight or gay," he said choking back tears, “To anyone out there, especially young people feeling like you don’t fit in, or are not accepted, great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”
Sam's boyfriend Vito Cammisano and his family watched from the audience, clearly proud of the moment, while we wiped our own tears away.