ATLANTIC CITY, May 15, 2014 — Michael Sam and A.J. McCarron just do not get it. The two players who should be seeking the least amount of attention decided to seek it most. Despite having never played a professional football game, they both now have reality television shows. Sam’s will air on Oprah Winfrey’s television network while McCarron’s engagement and wedding will be a series featuring him and his fiancée.
Sam is the reigning SEC defensive player of the year. He just became the first openly gay player to be drafted in. McCarron is a two-time national champion quarterback at Alabama. He is engaged to Miss Alabama Katherine Webb. He was recently drafted as well.
Both Sam and McCarron were drafted later than they expected. McCarron fell to the fifth round, while Sam fell to the seventh round. Michael Sam was selected with the 249th pick, just a few spots higher than “Mr. Irrelevant.” Sam and McCarron will both have a tough time seeing playing time, even if they make their respective teams. Sam is trying to make a St. Louis Rams team that is loaded with stars on defense. McCarron joins a Cincinnati Bengals squad that already has Red Rifle Andy Dalton ahead of him.
Both of these men have potential, but so does every draft pick. Assuming they even make it in the NFL, rookies should keep their heads down, stay humble, and focus on football. Outside distractions and a lack of humility can derail a career. In 1998, top pick Peyton Manning minded his manners and honed his craft. He will one day make the Hall of Fame. Second pick Ryan Leaf did the opposite. He quickly flamed out and ended up in prison.
While most players fit between these two extremes, no good comes out of drawing extra attention to an individual in the ultimate team game. Reality television shows are great for egomaniacs like Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson. Those players saw their lengthy careers disappear once it became apparent they were more interested in being celebrities than football players.
At least Owens and Johnson had some success first. Matt Leinart acted like Joe Millionaire, hanging out in a hot tub with multiple women in front of the cameras. He would have been better served concentrating on football.
What can anybody possibly learn about Sam and McCarron that has anything to do with football? Sam is the least heterosexual player in the league. McCarron is the most. Sam is gay. He sleeps with another man. We get it. McCarron sleeps with one of the hottest women on planet earth. We get it.
What both of these young men must understand is that self-promotion comes after success on the football field. College does not count. Sam and McCarron are about as accomplished as Polk High star Al Bundy. He had four touchdowns in one game.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning do not have reality television shows. Neither does Super Bowl champion cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sam and McCarron need to put the cameras down. The learning curve for potential rookies is far too steep to allow in outside forces. The streets are littered with potential players who failed in the NFL because they were too much of a distraction from the team. Tim Tebow is the most recent notable ex-player who allowed celebrity to overtake him. His legions of fans did him no favors.
If Michael Sam and A.J. McCarron want to play football, they must focus first, foremost and only on football. If not, they will quickly be replaced by others willing to avoid being caught on camera until game time on NFL Sundays.