Eric Waters is a rookie, just like his former college teammate at University of Missouri, Michael Sam. They're both trying to make NFL rosters as relative long shots in a hyper-competitive sport with limited jobs available.
That's a pretty humble existence for most rookies. But Waters can't help but think that Sam has changed since his former Tigers teammate and roommate revealed his sexuality to the nation this spring.
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“He is a nice guy, but I will say the truth: A little bit of him has changed,” Waters said. “It is really not my situation to speculate at this point, but he is not the same Michael Sam anymore.”
Waters, Sam and freshman linebacker Eric Beisel were roommates at Mizzou, and Waters said he considered Sam a good friend. But they don't speak anymore, per Waters.
So what has Waters noticed about his suddenly famous former teammate?
“Just the way he acts and carries himself,” Waters said. “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.”
Sam is being treated like any other rookie at St. Louis Rams camp, the team has said, but clearly there's a lot more attention around him after telling the nation he was gay. If he makes the team, Sam has a chance to become the first openly gay active NFL player.
At the NFL scouting combine, Sam said he did not want to be a trailblazer and seemed to eschew the media attention. But Waters feels that has changed since then and can't figure out exactly why.
“I don't know if that is because he is more focused on the fame and the opportunity he has now or whatever,” Waters said.
Waters was critical of the reception of Sam's announcement on Twitter, especially among some of their former teammates at Missouri.
Still, Waters said his reading of Sam's behavior now has nothing to do with his sexual preference.
“Like I tell everybody else, I don't care about your sexual preference or if you are black or white or freaking purple,” Waters said. “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.”
Apparently, that last part has changed in Waters' mind.
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