Meet the face-tattooed man who might steal Michael Sam’s roster spot


By now, anyone who calls themselves a Rams fan knows about the most high-profile seventh-round draft pick the NFL has possibly ever seen. His name is Michael Sam, and he’s the first openly gay active NFL player. He’s also a defensive lineman who is fighting for a roster spot on a Rams team that already has eight defensive linemen all but guaranteed to make the team.

The Rams did carry nine defensive linemen last year though, so it has been common thought that Sam has a decent chance to make the 53-man roster, especially because he seems committed to making an impact in whatever way he can, including special teams.

Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King, in town for a visit this week, went so far as to practically guarantee that Sam will be wearing blue and gold on September 7.

However, there is another defensive lineman who is threatening to ruin Sam’s feel-good story. His name is Ethan Westbrooks, and there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of him. Like Sam, Westbrooks is also a defensive lineman coming off an extremely productive final college season.

Instead of putting up big numbers in the SEC like Sam, Westbrooks plied his trade at Division II West Texas A&M. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner wrote a story on him yesterday, and it sure sounds like he’s got a really good chance at earning himself a roster spot.

“In 2012, Westbrooks earned the Division II Defensive Player of the Year award when he posted 19.5 sacks and 28 tackles for loss. He earned first-team all Lone Star conference honors last year when he managed 19.5 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries despite increased attention. At January’s East-West Shrine Classic, Westbrooks proved capable against better competition when he earned the East team’s defensive MVP award after getting two sacks.”

He went undrafted because of penalty problems – he had 30 in his last two seasons – and because he went to a small school. But Westbrooks is apparently determined to carve out a professional football career for himself. So determined, in fact, that he got a face tattoo. (???!!!) That’s right. From the story:

As explanations for facial tattoos go, Westbrooks at least offers something relatively easy to digest. The story goes that Westbrooks was working at a Toys “R” Us in Sacramento while playing football and going to school at Sacramento City Junior College. He didn’t like the job and decided when he quit that he had no intention of working a normal job again. So he went searching for a way to push himself to attain that goal. Somehow, he decided there was no better way to do that than to have a reminder staring him in the face every time he looked in the mirror.

“I was just like I might as well go ahead and get it on the face because if nothing else, it will help motivate me to either be a guy that has a tattoo on his face looking for another job or hopefully I make it in the NFL and don’t have to work too hard to do something (else),” Westbrooks said. “I don’t feel it’s a bad thing now. I don’t regret it. It speaks for itself.”

So yeah, that’s pretty weird, but more power to him I suppose. In a weird way, I feel like we should be rooting for Westbrooks to earn a spot over Sam. We know Sam will be quite OK in his post-football endeavors. The man is already a celebrity and a pioneer for the LGBT community.

Westbrooks, meanwhile, would just be a big dude with a face tattoo. We’ll see who earns their stripes on the field soon enough.

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