EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's pretty common to see a rookie who has never played a game show up on the list of the NFL's best-selling jerseys before training camp even begins. Many college players simply carry the name-value and fan following that makes proving themselves in the NFL unimportant when it comes to purchasing a jersey.
You don't, however, see rookie seventh-round draft picks on the list before they've ever taken a snap. But as we already knew, St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam is clearly not your run-of-the-mill seventh-round draft choice. As the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL, Sam has already become one of the most well-known seventh-round picks of all time.
If you needed any further evidence, simply take a look at the list of the top 10 in jersey sales on NFL.com from April 1 to July 17. Sam's No. 96 jersey checks in at No. 6 on the list, behind established NFL stars such as Denver's Peyton Manning and Seattle's Richard Sherman and ahead of the future Hall of Fame quarterback trio of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Heady company, for sure.
Sam is also one of only two defensive players -- Sherman the other -- to make the top 10. Clearly, Sam's historic announcement and pursuit of a roster spot in St. Louis has transcended his draft position and made his jersey a hot commodity among fans.
If nothing else, Sam's jersey is already considered something of a collector's item. It will likely continue to sell well, but it's still a piece of memorabilia that could have a short shelf life. There aren't many fans who buy jerseys of a player who is far from a lock to make his team's roster.
That's much different than the situation in Cleveland, where quarterback Johnny Manziel is No. 1 on the list in no small part because of his larger-than-life personality and the profile he brings into the league as a first-round pick. Manziel is a lock to make the roster and the only question surrounding his status in that regard is whether he'll be the opening-day starter.
Sam doesn't enjoy the same luxury as he pursues a spot on the team's initial 53-man roster with the possibility that those No. 96 jerseys could be out of date only months after they were purchased.