NEW YORK, N.Y. - Michael Sam waited and waited. Hours passed, rounds came and went, and eventually, there were only eight more picks left on the third and final day of the NFL draft. For just a moment, it looked as if his chance of being picked by a pro team and becoming the leagues first openly gay player might take a detour. Or at least be delayed. The call finally came Saturday from the St. Louis Rams, the team right down the road from where Sam played his college ball at the University of Missouri. Sam was selected in the seventh and final round and admitted it was a frustrating wait. He said teams that passed on him chickened out and he should have been drafted sooner. "From last season alone, I shouldve been in the first three rounds. SEC Defensive Player of the Year, All-American," Sam said. He stopped short of directly saying his stock dropped in the draft because he came out. "You know what, who knows? Who knows? Only the people who sit in the war room know," he said. "They saw Michael Sam, day after day they scratched it off the board. That was their loss. But St. Louis kept me on that board. And you know what I feel like Im a (Jadeveon) Clowney, a first draft pick. Im proud of where I am now." Sam came out as gay in media interviews earlier this year. His team and coaches knew his secret and kept it for his final college season. He went on to have the best year of his career: He was the co-defensive player of the year in the NCAAs best football conference and had 11.5 sacks. The pick came after several rounds of suspense. The first round of the day, No. 4 overall, came and went, no Sam. Then the fifth and sixth, and finally, the day was down to just a handful of picks. When Mike Kensil, the NFLs vice-president of game operations, walked to the podium at Radio City Music Hall in the drafts final minutes to announce the Rams second-to-last pick, the crowd got a sense something was up. Very few of the last day picks were announced at the podium. Twitter lit up with suggestions the Rams were about to make news. When Kensil said: "The St. Louis Rams select ... Michael Sam..." the fans gave a hearty cheer, chanting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and "Michael Sam!" Sam was in San Diego watching with friends and family at the home of his agent, Joe Barkett of Empire Athletes. ESPN and the NFL Network had cameras there and showed Sams reaction. Sam was on the phone bending over, with his boyfriend hugging him and rubbing his left bicep. When Sam got off the phone, the tears started. He gave his boyfriend a big kiss and a long hug as he cried and his eyes reddened. After, they shared cake — and another kiss. "Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. Im using every once of this to achieve greatness!!" Sam tweeted with a frenzied typo moments after he was picked, with a picture of himself wearing a Rams cap and a pink polo shirt. The six-foot-two, 255-pound Sam was considered a mid-to-late round pick, far from a sure thing to be drafted. He played defensive end in college, but hes short for that position in the NFL and slower than most outside linebackers, the position hell need to transition to at the professional level. He was taken with the 249th overall pick out of 256. Players from Marist, Maine and Canadas McGill University — Redmen tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif went in the sixth round, 200th overall to Kansas City — were taken ahead of Sam. "In the world of diversity we live in now, Im honoured to be a part of this," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said during an interview on ESPN. The NFL had no comment on Sam being drafted. The impact of Sams selection goes far beyond football. At a time when gay marriage is gaining acceptance among Americans, Sams entry into the NFL is a huge step toward the integration of gay men into professional team sports. Pro sports have in many ways lagged behind the rest of society in acceptance. "Michael Sam wouldnt have been drafted five years ago," said former Viking punter Chris Kluwe, who has accused Minnesota of cutting him in part because of his vocal support for gay rights. In the last year, NBA veteran Jason Collins has come out publicly as gay, and is now playing for the Brooklyn Nets. Collins said before the Nets playoff game against the Heat that he was watching the draft and texted Sam after he was picked. "Its a great day for Michael and his family and for the NFL," Collins said. Publicly, most people in and related to the NFL have been supportive of Sam. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said Sam would be welcome in the league and judged solely on his ability to play. A few wondered whether teams would be reluctant to draft Sam because of all the media attention that would come with it. Fair or not, the NFL — coming off a season in which a bullying scandal involving players on the Miami Dolphins was one of the biggest stories in sports — was looking at a possible public relations hit if Sam was not drafted. He would likely have been signed as a free agent and given a chance to make a team in training camp, but to many it would have looked as if he was being rejected. Now that hes there, it could be seen as an opportunity for the NFL to show that crass locker room culture is not as prevalent as it might have looked to those who followed the embarrassing Dolphins scandal. But all the reaction to Sams news wasnt positive from the league. Miami safety Don Jones posted a one-word tweet, "Horrible" shortly after Sam was drafted. It was later taken down. The teams general manager said he was aware, and was disappointed. Wade Davis, a gay former NFL player who is now the executive director of the gay rights advocacy group "You Can Play," said Sam only needs to do his job to have an impact beyond the field. "Michael Sam doesnt have to be a vocal advocate (for gay rights)," Davis said. "His visibility is his advocacy." Renell Wren Jersey
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. "I wasnt waving the pom-poms to be involved with it to start with," Carlyle said after a 5-2 win over Carolina on Sunday night. "Its been a trying time. "Specifically we havent played as well as wed like to hang our hat on.TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry addressed his teammates after the Toronto Raptors concluded the regular-season Wednesday night. While Torontos point guard wouldnt repeat his speech for reporters -- "Thats for me and my guys to know" -- any words of wisdom are much appreciated by this young Raptors playoff team. "I think theyre going to lean on us (veterans) a lot," Lowry said of his less experienced teammates. "But were all going to help. Were all going to be in this together. "Were 15 deep so weve got guys who are very experienced, inexperienced, weve got a coach who has a ring. So everyone is going to lean on everybody." Experience is the early theme of the Raptors opening-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. Toronto hosts the Nets in Game 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Tuesday before the series shifts to Brooklyn. The Nets expected starting five -- Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett -- have 417 post-season starts between them. The Raptors starters -- Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas -- have none. Lowry and Johnson at least have some post-season experience -- Lowry played 13 playoff games as a backup point guard for Houston in 2009 while Johnson played in 11 post-season games with Detroit in 2008 and 09. As for the rest of the starters, they dont know quite what to expect. But theyre about to find out. "Well figure it out Saturday," the 23-year-old Ross said. Ross said hes been told the big difference is intensity. "The one thing that stuck out to me the most is the seasons all about repetition," Ross said. "When you get to the playoffs, its all about its your chance to prove what youve been doing the whole season. "The seasons about repetition but when you get to the playoffs, its either win or go home." DeRozan said its important to remain calm. "Dont overhype anything, go out there and take it one game at a time," DeRozan said. "Thats how weve all got to treat it. "Weve got to treat it like its another big game but we understand whats at stake." Johnson said the mood in the locker-room has taken on a decidedly more serious tone. "(Im) juust telling everybody its a brand new season," the forward said.dddddddddddd"Weve just got to pay attention to detail. "Were doing that in practice, were going through a lot of film. Its a very serious approach." The 26-year-old said the team is making a conscious effort to not become swept up in the playoff excitement thats gripping Raptors fans. "Theres a lot of stuff coming at us. Family, fans, media," Johnson said. "Its basically just us as a team and we have to stick together and stay focused and just look at the bigger picture." Raptors coach Dwane Casey, whose defensive expertise helped the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat for the 2011 NBA title, has been preparing his players for the more intense post-season game. "Theres a higher level of being specific on each play, attention to detail. Youve got to challenge the shot, youve got to box out and rebound -- second shots are a no-no. Physicality, no layups," Casey said. "A lot of different things change in the playoffs that weve talked about." Asked if his young players will adapt quickly to the post-season style of play, the coach said "Well, we better. "We better in a couple possessions. Again, its basketball. I dont want to say its day and night. Youre still putting the ball through the hole and keeping your guy from scoring, as basic as you can get. I dont want to overhype it to scare our guys. Its still basketball. "Again, guys will see the difference and theyll feel it. . . the pace of the game, theyll feel that as soon as they walk on the court." Still, Casey said there can be too much emphasis placed on playoff experience. "Its important, but its not the only thing, youve still got to play the game," Casey said. "I go back to Dallas, we were an underdog in every series. We had experience, but we were still an underdog. Its important, but its not the only thing you measure it by." Coaching is where the Raptors do win the experience game. Brooklyns Jason Kidd is in his rookie season as a coach. Kidd was the point guard for that Mavs team that beat LeBron James and the Heat back in 2011. "Jason, Im sure hes prepared himself pretty well to handle the situation," Casey said. ' ' '