What a year for Michael Sam—and the NFL!
The league's first openly gay player attended the ESPY Awards Wednesday, where he was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Following an emotional video reel, Sam appeared on the Nokia Theatre stage to accept the award from Dwayne Johnson. The football player was greeted by a standing ovation.
"The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a big honor, one much bigger than just me. This year I had a lot of experience being part of something bigger than myself," the 24-year-old professional athlete told the crowd while trying not to cry. "At times, I felt like I'd been living in a massive storm...but I'm here tonight to tell you the lessons learned about love and respect and being true to yourself will never leave me."
Sam quoted late American World No. 1 professional tennis player Arthur Ashe, saying, "Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can." He added, "Those were the words to live by, whether you're black or white, young or old, straight or gay...Football raised me, football taught me about hard work."
The St. Louis Rams defensive end praised his mentors and said, "Whatever passion you have, follow it."