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Kent State alum Gary Pinkel applauds Michael Sam's courage

By R.B. Fallstrom | Associated Press Published: February 11, 2014 4:00 AM
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri coach -- and former Kent state football standout and graduate assistant -- Gary Pinkel said Monday that Michael Sam 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.

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.

"Pretty cool," Pinkel said.

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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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TaggR Feb 11, 2014 1:52 PM

watchingthewatchers and dowhatsright, crawl back under your rock and while your there tell the whiner we don't miss him.

Peace, Love, Unity and Respect, words these haters fear!

watchingthewatchers Feb 11, 2014 1:06 PM

What a disgrace.  the coach is an embarrassment.

Homosexuality is a religion to these zealots.  They force it upon others.  They use their religion to attack other religions to tear them down.  This destructive religion/political movement resembles our equally tolerant Muslim radicals who engage in the same tactics and often engage in the same behavior.  Promotion of this deviant behavior has predeeded the downfall of EVERY civilization in history.   It should be recognized as the the threat that it is, as should Islam.  Islam must be wiped from the earth and the degenerates must be prosecuted for their attacks on children and their attacks on the 1st Amendment freedoms of others.  Get back in the closet and END YOUR ATTACKS and BRAINWASHING attempts. 

anonymous Feb 11, 2014 10:31 AM


This is not courage; it is playing the “gay card.” If he is not chosen in a high spot in the draft, he will claim it is because he is gay.  If he does not get the team he wants, he will say it is because he is gay. So, what this young man has done is tilted the playing field to make it look like if he is not taken right away then the NFL is anti gay.  He has played you and the NFL and should he be selected, whatever team he goes too will have to cater to him or be sued for discrimination.  The NFL and Football as a whole would be better off not to select him at all. This way you will be able to run your team the way you want and not have the anti gay discrimination law suit be held over your head.