Keynote Speaker


Michael Sam:NCAA All-American Football Player, NFL Free Agent, LGBT Athlete, University of Missouri football star, NFL free agent and trailblazer


Michael Sam is an American football defensive end who made history when he came out as gay ahead of the NFL draft, making him the first openly-LGBT player to be drafted in any major American sport. Since his announcement, through scrutiny, criticism and unreserved admiration, he has become an icon and pioneer for the LGBT community. Hailing from a tiny Texas town and the 7th of 8 children, Sam endured a childhood overrun with adversity, challenges and pain. With a portion of his early years spent living in a car with his mother, Sam developed steadfast determination to make a better life for himself, identifying sports as his ticket out. With unrelenting athletic aspirations, he went from water boy to star player, earning first-team All-District honors all four years of high school. Presented with offers from numerous leading schools, Sam secured a football scholarship at Missouri and thrived with an exceptional career, culminating in being named a first-team All-American and Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Predicted to be drafted early in the 2014 NFL draft, Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams as the 249th of 256 players selected, after he came out as gay during an ESPN interview. He is currently an NFL free agent. In 2014, he was named one of GQ Magazine’s Men of the Year, was a finalist for Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs. A role model and trailblazer for inclusion in sports, revered for his unswerving courage, graciousness and fortitude, Sam offers firsthand insight into leveraging individual personal strengths to pursue ones dreams, inspiring audiences with perspective on what it means to work hard to define and achieve success.

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