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Michael Sam to participate in documentary

Missouri's Michael Sam (52) runs onto the field

Missouri's Michael Sam (52) runs onto the field along with teammates before the start of a game against Georgia in Columbia, Missouri on Sept. 8, 2012. Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

The day after Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam said he wanted to concentrate solely on football, the Oprah Winfrey Network announced today that it will produce a documentary series about Sam’s journey as the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Sam said on Tuesday, after being introduced to reporters at an afternoon press conference, that he now wanted to focus on making the team. But it remains to be seen whether his participation in the series will affect his preparation as he seeks to make the team’s 53-man roster in training camp.

The Rams are aware of the documentary, but are not expected to provide any more access to the OWN filmmakers than anyone else covering the team.

“Michael is focused on football and making the St. Louis Rams team,” Howard Bragman, Sam's publicist and one of the show's producers, told “We're going to work with the Rams organization to make sure the show doesn't interfere with his primary goal.”

The network has not said when the series will air. According to a press release about the show, OWN will partner with Emmy-winning producer Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Amy Rice to produce “The Untitled Michael Sam Project,” which will feature the former University of Missouri star’s journey as the first openly gay player in the NFL.

“Cameras will follow Sam follow Sam as he works to earn his spot on the St. Louis Rams all while under the intense scrutiny of being the first openly gay player in the NFL,” according to the release.

“We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I am proud of the focus on authentic storytelling in our new documentary series format.  The next real-life story we follow in ‘The Untitled Michael Sam Project’ promises to spark valuable, important discussion on life in America today.  Acceptance and illumination start here.”

Said Sam in a statement: “Like every player out there working to make a team right now, my focus is on playing football to the very best of my ability. I am determined. And if seeing my story helps somebody else accept who they are and to go for their dreams too, that’s great.  I am thankful to Oprah for her support and excited to work together.”

Sam said at his news conference on Tuesday that he wants to put all his energy into making the team.

“All my focus has been on playing and trying to make the team,” the former Missouri defensive end told reporters at a news conference at the Rams’ training facility in Earth City, Mo. “I understand that right now, you [reporters] want to make a big deal of it. But when this [press conference] is over, I can start [working to make the team] as fast as possible.”

New York Sports