COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A Mizzou football star has made a potentially groundbreaking announcement. Former Tiger defensive end Michael Sam admitted to the public he's gay on Sunday evening, in advance of April's NFL draft where he could become the first openly gay player to play in the league if he's drafted or signed as a free agent. On Monday, FOX 4 went to Columbia to get reactions to the announcement.
"If you're part of our family, you're part of our football program, part of our team. We are going to be respectful of the differences amongst us and embrace and support each other. That's what we do here at Mizzou," head coach Gary Pinkel told the media on Monday.
After Sam's public coming-out, the University of Missouri tweeted the following:
— Mizzou (@Mizzou) February 10, 2014
On the hill at Memorial Stadium above Faurot Field, support came in form of snowtracks that incorporated the "Rock M" to spell out SAM. He's also received support from two people who currently reside in the White House.
You're an inspiration to all of us, @MikeSamFootball. We couldn't be prouder of your courage both on and off the field. -mo
— FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) February 10, 2014
Congratulations on leading the way, @MikeSamFootball. That's real sportsmanship.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 10, 2014
With all the support Sam has received, Pinkel also spoke about respecting differences, even if some of his teammates may disagree with Sam's lifestyle.
"I thought they embraced him, and I think, you know, would some of the players not agree, would they have their own opinion on it, maybe not favorably? Possibly. But that's okay. It's not about what my opinion is on it either. It's about being respectful to people," Pinkel said.
There's at least one former player who thinks the locker wasn't completely forthright with its collective response to the announcement. Sam's roommate and former teammate Eric Waters, tight end, also took to Twitter in the aftermath and expressed that some of the players would talk negatively about Sam behind his back.
As far as when the team knew and Sam's decision to announce it on Sunday, Pinkel said Sam had told the team after a dinner with coaches and players. After that, it was up to Sam when he wanted to make his announcement.
"He came in the next morning and said, 'Coach, I don't want to be a distraction here, I want to focus on winning football games and I want the team to have their best year," Pinkel said. "I said, 'Whenever you decide to do it, whenever it is, you just let me know and we'll be 100% supportive.'"
According to at least one NFL draft board Sam dropped from the 90th ranked prospect to the 160th after Sunday nights announcement. On Monday, he's moved back to around the 110 spot.
The drop was reportedly due to anonymous NFL sources who have been quoted saying Sam's public homosexuality is a distraction to a team. Some NFL owners, however, have now openly supported Sam who is now the first ever openly gay player to enter the NFL draft.