Sheldon Richardson remembered Michael Sam as "scared and nervous" with his sexuality during their college days at Missouri. On the football field, Sam was just the opposite -- "a killer," according to Richardson.
The New York Jets defensive tackle, in an interview Tuesday with SportsNet New York's Jeane Coakley, said he shared a house with Sam during the 2012 season. He described Sam as a good person and a good teammate even though he seemed burdened by his then secret.
"I'm [proud of him], actually," said Richardson, alluding to Sam's announcement that he's gay. "He had his best season when he came out to the team, so I'm actually happy for him. It worked out for him [and it] didn't go the opposite way, because I know he was scared and nervous, just for him to be himself. Just him getting that monkey off his back was well worth it 'cause he had his best season of football at Mizzou."
Sam came out to teammates last August, withholding his public declaration until Sunday. The former All-American defensive end is trying to become the first openly gay player in NFL history. Many project him as a potential middle-round pick in the May draft.
Richardson acknowledged there could be an adjustment period for the NFL team that drafts him.
He said Sam "most definitely" has a place in an NFL locker room "unless your team is immature minded. If guys can't get past that then, I mean, it's just crazy. Of course, it might be weird at first if you aren't used to it, 'cause like I said, with me living with him, it was a little bit unusual at first. But it's stuff you look past."
Richardson said Sam never revealed his sexual orientation to him.
"He didn't, but you knew," Richardson said. "You saw him."
Richardson called Sam a "regular guy. Has his own sexuality. Didn't take nothing from him. He was a great teammate, a great person. Everything you wanted out of him, you got out of him. ... I promise you, his sexuality has nothing to do with him playing on the football field. He is a completely different person. He put this face on: No smiles, serious business. He's a killer."
They played together only two seasons at Missouri, 2011 and 2012. Richardson arrived as a junior college transfer and declared for the NFL draft after the '12 season, capturing NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Richardson said Sam is "my guy, my homeboy."
SNY interviewed Richardson in Houston, coincidentally not far from Sam's hometown of Hitchcock, Texas. Richardson is there training with teammate Muhammad Wilkerson.