HITCHCOCK, Texas -

He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams late in the seventh round and his emotional reaction created a huge stir, but NFL player Michael Sam is getting a lot of support from friends and family in his hometown of Hitchcock in Galveston County.

On Saturday, Sam made history when he became the first openly gay football player taken in the NFL draft. His emotional reaction -- kissing his same-sex partner -- was captured by TV cameras and ignited a backlash on social media.

A Miami Dolphins football player was fined for tweeting "OMG" and "Horrible." However, those who know him best say people should focus on Sam's talent and leadership on the field.

"He's a football player first and foremost," said his aunt, Geraldine Sam, who lives in Hitchcock. "I would hope that people would accept him for being the player that he is. I would hope that people would give him an opportunity to prove himself."

Sam played football at Hitchcock High School before going on to play for the University of Missouri. One of his coaches remembers him fondly and believes he has what it takes to be a success in the NFL.

"When the ball snaps, he's all or nothing until the whistle," said Coach Morris Tuck, who coached Sam at Hitchcock High. "He's got a great motor. He's going to continue to hustle. He's very relentless."

Texans owner Bob McNair also weighed in when asked about Sam on Monday.

"I look at it, he's a football player, nothing more. Let's see him play," said McNair.