Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was aware of former Missouri teammate Michael Sam's sexual orientation when the two roomed together during the 2012 season. But Richardson said it had no bearing on his relationship -- on or off the field -- with the Tigers' defensive end.
"I lived with Michael Sam, regular guy, has his own sexuality. With me living with him, it was a little unusual at first, but it's stuff you look past," Richardson said in his first comments on Sam, who publicly acknowledged on Sunday that he is gay. "It wasn't anything unusual. He was my guy, my home boy."
Richardson told SNY's Jeane Coakley in an interview that aired Tuesday night that Sam was the consummate teammate, and that any NFL team he joins will be better for having him. Sam would be the first openly gay active player in league history if he makes an NFL roster.
"He was a great teammate, a great person," said Richardson, The Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. "If guys [in the NFL] can't get past that, then, I mean, it's just crazy. You wanted a football player, you got the football player. I promise you his sexuality has nothing to do with him playing on the football field. He is a completely different person [on the field]. He puts this face on, no smiles, serious business. He's a killer."
Richardson said Sam did not publicly acknowledge his sexuality when the two were roommates in 2012. Sam did tell his coaches and teammates before the 2013 season that he is gay. He went on to be the SEC's co-defensive player of the year.
"I wasn't there when he came out to the team, but like I said, seen him pretty much every morning, every day, so just something you get used to," Richardson said. "He left the house, went to school, went to class, went to practice, came home. Conversed when we wanted to, but it wasn't anything unusual."
Asked by Coakley if he was proud that Sam came out, Richardson replied, "I am, actually. He had his best season when he came out to the team. So I'm actually happy for him and it worked out for him, didn't go the opposite way, because I know he was scared and nervous just for him to be himself. Just him getting that monkey off his back was well worth it because he had his best season of football at Mizzou."