By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com March 20 2014 2:24 PM ET
Missouri football star and NFL hopeful Michael Sam thanked his legions of supporters, especially those on campus, for providing a second family during his coming out and drafting process.
"I have a long journey ahead of me, a lot of hard work and many dreams I want to fulfill," he wrote in the Missourian on Thursday. "But I do it with the confidence that my Mizzou family will be there for me every step of the way. I will continue to work my hardest; I will strive to make you all proud."
Since his coming out in early February in the New York Times, Sam has been on the receiving end of both opposition and support. A proposed law from a fringe lobbyist was considered to bar openly gay players in the NFL, while members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed an event to celebrate the University of Mizzouri's win at the Cotton Bowl over Oklahoma State.
However, members of the campus have countered the hate with encouraging messages, a snow spectacle, and a counter demonstration against the antigay church.
Sam specifically asked for the newspaper to run the letter during his Pro Day event in Missouri, with scouts.
"Certainly you cheered my successes, but you also picked me up when I fell," he added. "Maybe most importantly, you gave me a chance to live my truth without judgment, without hesitation and with great discretion and respect."