Michael Sam told his father he is gay on his dad's birthday.
Sam revealed the information to his dad, also named Michael Sam, last week via text message. The two later communicated via phone, and the elder Michael Sam said that it was news he wasn't expecting.
On Sunday evening, Sam, a defensive end at Missouri, made the news public and became the first active major college football player to reveal he is gay.
"I was shocked because I didn't see it," the father said. "I mean, you see your kids, but you don't suspect that."
"He sent me a text first," he recalled. What did it say? "I'm gay."
Then came the phone call a little later in the evening.
"I said was he sure, and he said he was," the 55-year-old disabled truck driver said.
Sam's father lives in a nursing home in Texas. He was a long-haul trucker while Sam was growing up and said the two talked about the decision to reveal the news publicly, which came Sunday night.
"I asked him about his career and everything, and he said he was just going to do it," Sam's father said. "And I said, OK then. He's in control and he's grown. No matter what, he's my son and I still love him."
Sam is the first member of his family to graduate from college, and three of his older siblings died. His sister Chanel drowned at age 2 in a neighborhood lake, his brother Russell was shot when he was 16-years-old and another brother, Julian, went missing and hasn't been found.
Two of his other brothers are incarcerated. Sam is the eighth of nine children and told the New York Times Sunday that he was raised mostly by his mother JoAnn and also lived with another family for some time. He told the Times he knew for sure he was gay when he got to Missouri and knew who he was when he told his teammates before the 2013 season.
“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” Sam said. “I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn’t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’ I would have said yes.”
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