AL HAMNIK: Mike Sam wastes no time winning the NFL's trust

2014-02-10T18:45:00Z 2014-02-15T19:46:13Z AL HAMNIK: Mike Sam wastes no time winning the NFL's trustAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 10, 2014 6:45 pm  • 

In describing Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus, former Bears' teammate Doug Buffone noted the Neanderthal gene is extremely rare.

"And Butkus had two of 'em," Buffone declared.

That was pro football back in the day.

Players competed with broken bones, torn muscles and concussions — there was no sports medicine then — and most worked part-time jobs in the offseason to supplement their modest NFL salaries.

The game changed, thankfully, and has slowly climbed out of the Dark Ages.

So why shouldn't it be prepared to accept Missouri linebacker Sam Mike, who told news outlets Sunday he hopes to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Do you have a problem with that? For those whose IQ equals their shoe size, deal with it. This is 2014 and human rights no longer is open to debate.

Jared Tomich played pro ball from 1997 through 2003, wearing the NFL uniforms of the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Tomich starred as a defensive lineman and the league already was showing a compassionate side.

"There was talk then about different guys who people thought 'they were or weren't,' but it never seemed like a big deal," said the Lake Central grad. "Good for (Sam). It was a pretty brave move.

"When I played, it would've been a 'moment' thing and that would've been it."

Following the news of Mike Sam's coming out party on sports talk radio Monday, the hosts were handling it more maturely than many of their bigoted callers.

Here are a few nuggets they offered up:

Mike Sam did this for publicity and plans to cash in.

His draft value will fall like a pair of cheap socks.

When chosen, and Mike Sam is talented enough to play in the NFL, he will be an instant distraction from Day 1 because of the piranha-like social media.

His presence in the locker room, the showers, is certain to make teammates feel uncomfortable.

My only question for these half-wits is how can you breathe with your head in the sand? That's some trick.

Tomich's playing career helped him adjust to all lifestyles, not that he ever needed to shed blinders.

"New Orleans was pretty tolerant of anything and everything," he said of the city. "In Green Bay, it was phenomenal. It was such a close unit, such a cool environment. Kansas City was another great squad with Coach (Dick) Vermeil.

"A lot of it has to do with the coaches."

Having covered locker rooms at the pro level, never have I seen a player or reporter act in a non-professional manner. And with women reporters now having access, athletes are on their best behavior.

"If you're not secure with yourself as an athlete, then there might be an issue with you," Tomich said. "This (Sam) kid is an awesome player and a really tough kid. And that's what it comes down to above everything else — how well you play.

"To come out and having been the leader (at Missouri), this is nothing new to him."

I also see this as an issue of trust, something missing today in pro sports.

"It was pretty stand-up for him to let teams know now," Tomich agreed. "You're creating trust with everyone. On the brink of the draft, that says a lot about his character."

And you can't put a pricetag on that.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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