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John Elway : I'd Draft Michael Sam

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AP Photo / Paul Sancya

Elway, the legendary former Broncos quarterback who now serves as the team's executive vice president of football operations, commended Sam and said the player will be evaluated strictly on his ability as a defensive end.

"I applaud Michael Sam and wish him the very best as he continues the pursuit of his NFL dream," Elway said Monday, as quoted by the Denver Post.

"As we look toward the combine and draft, we will evaluate Michael just like any other draft prospect — on the basis of his ability, character and NFL potential. His announcement will have no effect on how we see him as a football player."

An avowed Republican who publicly supported Mitt Romney, Elway said that in NFL locker rooms "it's about treating others with respect and earning that respect."

"By all indications, it appears Michael has done just that throughout his football career," Elway said.

Nearly a dozen unnamed league executives told Sports Illustrated that Sam, an All-American at Missouri, likely hurt his prospects with the announcement.

"I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," one NFL player personnel assistant said. "In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."