Michael Sam is adamant ... his decision to join "Dancing with the Stars" does NOT mean he's giving up his NFL dreams ... saying, "Football remains my unquestioned number 1 priority."
TMZ Sports broke the story ... Sam signed on to join Season 20 ... which begins next month.
Some people have said the move is proof that Sam is throwing in the towel on his football career and wants to focus on exploiting his off-the-field fame.
But moments ago, Sam fired back at the critics ... saying, "Football remains my unquestioned number 1 priority, however, while I continue to train and stay ready, I am ecstatic to participate in a fun, athletic competition like so many players before me have done."
"Filming this off-season is very flexible and allows me to be part of the veterans combine 3/22 if accepted or any other workouts."
"I’m looking forward to getting started with @PetaMurgatroyd and winning! Thanks for the support! #TeamSambatroyd."