Read Michael Sam’s emotional letter to Missouri community

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, left, picks up Andrew Hill as he greets him during pro day for NFL football representatives Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. Hill is the son of associate head coach Andy Hill. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Michael Sam celebrates his Pro Day with Andrew Hill, the son of Missouri’s associate head coach. (L.G. Patterson / AP)

Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive lineman who hopes to be the first openly player drafted into the NFL in May, had an impressive Pro Day at Mizzou on Thursday, mostly erasing a disappointing combine performance.

But first, he started the day with a deeply personal letter to the Columbia, Mo., community that supported him throughout his college career, writing: “You gave me a chance to live my truth without judgment, without hesitation and with great discretion and respect.”

The full text of the letter reads:

To my fellow University of Missouri students, athletes, faculty, alumni and supporters:

From my first recruiting trip to the University of Missouri, I felt something extraordinary and special — something I didn’t feel anyplace else.

I didn’t have a name for it then; I do now. It’s called family.

And to me that family is defined by unconditional love.

Certainly you cheered my successes, but you also picked me up when I fell.

Maybe most importantly, you gave me a chance to live my truth without judgment, without hesitation and with great discretion and respect.

When I came out last month, I did it with the confidence that my Mizzou “family” would always be there for me.

To put it mildly, the love and acceptance I felt was amazing.

The day after the announcement, my name was spelled out in the stadium; fraternities hung #StandWithSam banners; then when I went to the basketball game to honor the football team’s Cotton Bowl victory, I worked hard not to cry because of the amazing reception.

I have a long journey ahead of me, a lot of hard work and many dreams I want to fulfill.

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.

And I will be a Tiger forever.

Love,

Michael

A little later in the day, he drew a crowd to his workout for scouts.

Although he tweaked his hamstring in the workout for scouts, his numbers showed improvement over his performance at the combine a month ago. His vertical jump increased to 32 inches (from 31) and his broad jump when from 114 to 120 inches. His 40 improved most dramatically, from 4.91 to 4.69, 4.70 and 4.75 on three officials’ stopwatches.

All in all, a pretty good day.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.

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Matt Rennie · March 21, 2014

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