NFL notebook: Missouri's Sam taken by Rams in seventh round
NEW YORK — Michael Sam was picked by the Rams in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, becoming the first openly gay player drafted by a pro football team.
Sam played at Missouri and came out as gay in media interviews earlier this year. His team and coaches knew his secret and kept it for his final college season. He went on to have the best season of his career: He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
When Mike Kensil, the NFL's vice president of game operations, walked to the podium at Radio City Music Hall in the draft's final minutes to announce the Rams' second-to-last pick, the crowd got a sense something was up. Very few of the last-day picks were announced at the podium.
There also was some buzz on Twitter that the Rams were about to make news.
When Kensil said: “The St. Louis Rams select ... Michael Sam ...” the fans gave a hearty cheer, chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and “Michael Sam!”
Sam was in San Diego watching with friends and family at the home of his agent, Joe Barkett of Empire Athletes. ESPN and the NFL Network had cameras there and showed Sam's emotional reaction.
Sam tweeted: “Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. I'm using every ounce of this to achieve greatness.”
Bengals take McCarron
The Bengals got another quarterback to back up Andy Dalton, this one with a history of winning big games.
They took Alabama's A.J. McCarron in the fifth round. The Heisman Trophy runner-up fell to the 164th pick overall.
So it'll be A.J. McCarron-to-A.J. Green — but mostly in practice. Dalton is the unchallenged starter, and McCarron will have a backup spot for now.
Dennard channels Revis
Darqueze Dennard has studied NFL cornerbacks, trying to borrow some of their techniques to improve his game. One in particular stood out as a kindred spirit in pass coverage.
He admires three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the former Aliquippa and Pitt star who signed with New England in the offseason. They have similar builds and are known for tight man-to-man coverage.
Dennard gets to show what he has learned with the Bengals, who took the former Michigan State standout 24th overall in the first round. Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back.
Browns take chance on CB
Pierre Desir's path to the NFL is a one-of-a-kind journey.
Sticking to their draft strategy of taking tough, athletic players despite an apparent need for a wide receiver, the Browns selected Desir, a cornerback from tiny Lindenwood, in the fourth round.
Desir's unlikely story reads like a Hollywood screenplay. He and his family fled Haiti when he was 4, and the emigrants moved from home to home during his childhood. A soccer player who found football by accident, he became a father when he was 16, got passed over by major schools recruiting him because of poor test scores, enrolled at Washburn, transferred and dominated at the Division II level for his Missouri college.
Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine is Mr. Irrelevant, taken by the Texans with the final pick in the draft.
Houston opened this year's draft by taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick and finished it by selecting Ballentine with pick No. 256.
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