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Mizzou officials applaud Michael Sam’s ‘courage’

Monday, February 10, 2014
L.G. Patterson, AP"Sam" is spelled in the snow on the north side of Missouri's Memorial Stadium, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 in support of Missouri's All-America defensive end Michael Sam, in Columbia, Mo. Sam hopes his ability is all that matters, not his sexual orientation. Sam came out to the entire country Sunday night, Feb. 9, 2014, and could become the first openly gay player in America's most popular sport.

L.G. Patterson, AP
“Sam” is spelled in the snow on the north side of Missouri’s Memorial Stadium, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 in support of Missouri’s All-America defensive end Michael Sam, in Columbia, Mo. Sam hopes his ability is all that matters, not his sexual orientation. Sam came out to the entire country Sunday night, Feb. 9, 2014, and could become the first openly gay player in America’s most popular sport.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that Michael Sam first revealed he was gay at one of the football team’s get-acquainted dinners last summer.

The next day, Sam told the entire team.

Realizing the enormity of the situation, Pinkel left the next move up to the senior who blossomed into one of the best defensive ends in the country — and one surrounded by teammates who didn’t worry one bit about sexual orientation or reveal his secret until he came out on Sunday.

L.G. Patterson, APMissouri Athletic Director Mike Alden talks to reporters, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

L.G. Patterson, AP
Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden talks to reporters, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

L.G. Patterson,  APMissouri football coach Gary Pinkel talks to reporters, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

L.G. Patterson, AP
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel talks to reporters, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

APMichael Sam

AP
Michael Sam

Pinkel, athletic director Mike Alden and other school officials applauded Sam’s courage Monday at Faurot Field. As a backdrop, the first two letters of Sam’s last name were etched in snow to join the giant “M” just beyond the north end zone (pictured, above).

“Pretty cool,” Pinkel said.

Coaches and Sam agreed that making an announcement during the season might be a distraction. It was Sam’s call to skip all of the weekly media days and postgame news conferences, too, the better to avoid the risk of the topic coming up. Sam broke his silence prior to the Cotton Bowl and the conversation stayed on football, just like he wanted.

Sam was prompted to make his decision to come out after the Senior Bowl, where it became apparent the player’s sexual orientation was widely known. This meant a declaration just a matter of days before the NFL combine and shouldering the pressure that will come with perhaps being the first openly gay player in the history of the league.

“It’s very clear that everybody in the NFL knew,” said Howard Bragman, a consultant hired by Sam’s agent to help manage the announcement on ESPN, in The New York Times and Outsports.

The NFL and many others, including the White House, publicly applauded Sam’s decision. President Barack Obama’s spokesman, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all called him a courageous and inspirational athlete.

But now, after a few high-profile interviews, it’s back to silent Sam. The fifth level of the stadium was jammed with dozens of reporters for Monday’s news gathering but there was no sign of the star attraction. Bragman said Sam was traveling Monday to a camp at an undisclosed location where he’ll prepare for the combine.

Sam arrived without fanfare at Missouri from Hitchcock (Texas) High School — Rivals.com gave him just two stars. He had 10 career starts before his breakout senior season.

The All-America defensive end led the Southeastern Conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19). He was the SEC defensive player of the year. Still, Sam has been projected as a mid-level NFL draft pick, probably because he’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds. Pinkel doesn’t think this admission will hurt Sam’s draft status.

“Our team was able to move past it and work together,” defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “So why shouldn’t a bunch of professional football players be able to do the same thing?”

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31 more reader comments:

  1. Love this!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:30am
  2. Awesome

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:33am
  3. awesome

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:34am
  4. Excellent article with great information. Why can’t other outlets do this?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:37am
  5. <3

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:38am
  6. So Great!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:40am
  7. Too bad the NFL rank and file are not as Accepting…. May boycott the NFL.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:44am
  8. Don’t believe the hate

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:47am
  9. Oh, Ram Sam Sam. Oh Ram Sam Sam. Gooey Gooey Gooey Ram Sam Sam. Sorry, I couldn’t resist! :)

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:55am
  10. I will be wondering which team will draft him if he is drafted at all. There are a handful of teams that could handle this New England Patriots Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers mainly due to the head coaches would deflect the questions and make it more about his talent

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:56am
  11. If he is good enough the Patriots will sign him. Kraft is anti homophobic.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:30pm
  12. So he’s gay! Great awesome! What difference does it make? Can he play the game? That’s what should matter! It’s not like he’s f*cking on the football field!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:01am
  13. It matters because bigots might think different of gays and lesbians if they see that there are people that they emulate that are gay.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:33am
  14. Honey, an NFL team is gonna look at his stats and how he does in the combine. He will do just fine.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:02am
  15. Hope you're right. The NFL is very homophobic.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 10:57am
  16. What courage?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:03am
  17. Congrats and good luck!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:17am
  18. awesome!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:49am
  19. Joe do you want me to write your name on the Norwood High football field?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:51am
  20. IM PROUD OF YOU SAM IT TOOK A REAL MAN TO HAVE THE GUTS AN HEART TO STAND UP AN BE REAL WITH WHO YOU ARE CHICAGO IS PROUD OF YOU AN WE LOVE AN SUPPORT YOU MY BROTHER MAY GOD BLESS YOU THREW IT ALL

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:02am
  21. Shattering stereotypes!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:21am
  22. Could you possibly rock more <3

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:31am
  23. GO TIGERS! GO!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:12am
  24. This is beautiful.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:24am
  25. Stan Kinnear

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:47am
  26. Great.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:38am
  27. Playing sports, especially for a professional entity such as an NFL franchise, is about talent. He gets paid to play a game and if he is really good at that game, he should be in demand. These other idiots which choose to focus on his sexuality and barring him from the NFL seriously need to worry about something more important.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:29am
  28. That is very heart warming to see.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 10:20am
  29. Very cool.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 10:22am
  30. good

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 11:45am
  31. I had no idea that someone’s sexual orientation should be of my concern… Who knew? I wish him well but I wish him well because he is a good football player. I could not care less about what he does in the privacy of his own home.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:18pm