The man on the other end of a kiss from the NFL's first openly gay player -- a picture that some say changed the game forever -- is a collegiate swimmer who was born into Kansas City mob royalty.
A photo of Vito Cammisano's celebratory smooch with boyfriend Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive end who came out of the closet before last week's NFL draft, was all over the web following Sam's selection in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. One Miami Dolphins player was disciplined for calling the picture "horrible," while gay rights advocates rejoiced. But while Sam's background had been well-chronicled since his announcement Feb. 9, little was known about the All-American's lover.
It turns out Cammisano comes from a family whose interest in football might have leaned more toward the business end, according to the New York Daily News. His late grandfather, William "Willie the Rat" Cammisano, was boss of Kansas City's Civella crime family, and his father, Gerlarmo (Jerry) Cammisano, 60, did 14 months in prison on gambling-related charges, the newspaper reported. But the younger Cammisano, 23, has kept his nose clean, graduating last year with a degree in communications.
And while the NFL has in the past showed serious concern about players consorting with gamblers and mobsters, officials at the league's headquarters on Park Avenue in New York had no comment about the pedigree of Sam's paramour.
The kiss was caught on camera by ESPN, which was on hand as Sam's name was called at the draft. Some draftniks had expected him to go higher than the seventh round after his stellar final year in Columbia, but a disappointing workout for the pros, in which Sam ran the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds and managed just 17 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, seemed to lower his stock. But after he was picked, St Louis Rams jerseys bearing his name quickly became the second-best selling shirt licensed by the league, behind only Cleveland Browns jerseys bearing the name of Johnny Manziel.
Willie "The Rat" Cammisano died in 1995, but some 15 years earlier, he famously refused to answer a Senate committee’s questions about mob crimes. The son of one of his alleged victims told lawmakers the older Cammisano earned his nickname by stuffing his victims in sewers, where rats helped dispose of their bodies.