Montreal - Michael Sam, the first openly gay player selected in the National Football League Draft, has signed a two-year deal to play for the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, the team announced Friday.
Sam will take his skills to Canada with an eye to improving his game in a league that has been a top developmental circuit for NFL talent.
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"I am very excited and proud to join the Montreal Alouettes," Sam said.
"I cannot wait to put on the pads, get back on the field and work hard each and every day with my teammates to bring a Grey Cup to the great fans here in Montreal."
The 25-year-old defensive end was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of last year's NFL Draft and made 11 tackles and three sacks in pre-season games for the Rams before being among the final roster cuts.
Sam also spent time on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad last year but could not crack the lineup for what would have been a groundbreaking NFL regular-season debut.
The move comes one week before the start of training camps for the CFL's nine clubs. The Alouettes, who went 9-9 last season, will play two pre-season games, the first at Quebec City against Ottawa on June 13, and will open their 2015 campaign at home June 25 against Ottawa.
"With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today," Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said. "Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team."
The deal is for one guaranteed season with a team option for a second season, although CFL clubs often waive that if NFL teams come calling.
Last March, Sam took part in an NFL veterans combine to display his skills for club scouts but did not receive an offer from any NFL club.
After a standout four-year college career at the University of Missouri, Sam announced that he was gay, joining a series of US sport groundbreakers in being openly gay but doing so in a league which has had locker room issues such as bullying and concerns about how a gay player would be received.
Jason Collins became the NBA's first openly gay player in 2014 when he took the court for the Brooklyn Nets.
Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay player in any US sports league when he took the field for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer in 2013.