(Reuters) - Michael Sam has received plenty of positive support since he said he was gay two weeks ago but wants to be known for his feats on the gridiron, not his sexuality, the NFL draft prospect has said.
The University of Missouri defensive end publicly revealed his sexuality two weeks ago and could become the first openly homosexual player in the National Football League if, as expected, he is chosen by a team in May's draft.
"I just want to do what I love to do, and that's play football," Sam told a packed press conference at the NFL combine, where teams assess draft prospects, in Indianapolis on Saturday.
"I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player."
Sam, a 6-foot, 2-inch (188-cm), 260-pound (118-kg) pass rusher, was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) after leading the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, and was projected to be mid-round pick in the May 8-10 seven-round NFL draft.
He said he has received plenty of positive feedback since his announcement and held no fears about harassment from future team-mates, even if drafted by the Miami Dolphins, who have been embroiled in a bullying investigation.
"The positive outweighs the negative. I'm actually kind of surprised. There's a lot of support out there," he said.
"I'm not afraid of going into that environment.
"If someone wants to call me a name I'll have a conversation with that guy and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)