Sad Details About The NFL’s First Openly Gay Player

After leaving the Canadian Football League, Michael Sam ended up spending seven years away from his greatest passion. “I was depressed,” he later told ESPN, recalling the dark period that followed. “I started drinking during the week — I’ve never done that before … I had relationship troubles with my fiance, we called off our engagement.” Sam described his mental state as “an ongoing battle” that led him to try drugs during four or five aimless months in Los Angeles.

In 2022, he finally returned to the field with the Barcelona Dragons in the European Football League, first as a coach and then as a player. In his ESPN interview, Sam admitted that he wasn’t sure how much time he had left to play the sport in good physical condition. “This is it, whether it’s this season or the next two seasons,” he said. “This is my high rise of playing professional football.” But he still praised the Barcelona Dragons for pulling him out of a seven-year hiatus. “Football is a privilege, not a right, and I don’t take it for granted anymore,” Sam added. “Going out there, hanging out with the guys, being able to hit again … The energy, everything is therapy for me. This team has helped me so much mentally and emotionally. They’ve probably even saved my life.”

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

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