Barack Obama applauds Michael Sam

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- President Barack Obama is praising University of Missouri football player Michael Sam for announcing he is gay before the NFL draft.

"I really like the fact that Michael did it before the draft because his attitude was, 'You know what, I know who I am. I know I can play great football and judge me on the merits,' " Obama said of Sam, who could become the NFL's first openly gay player, in a taped interview that aired during TNT's pregame coverage of Sunday's NBA All-Star Game.

Sam could become the NFL's first openly gay player. The defensive end is scheduled to participate in the league's scouting camp in Indianapolis later this month. He's projected to be a mid-round draft pick in May.

First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sent Sam messages of encouragement over Twitter last week after his announcement. A spokesman had said Obama shared their sentiments.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.