FRISCO, Texas (TNS) — Scott Frantz didn't plan on this.
Was it finally the right time?
He'd known since fifth grade and never told anyone. Now the Kansas State offensive lineman was about to tell all of his 100-plus teammates he was gay — before he told his parents, before he told his other friends and before he even proved himself on the field. He was just finishing his redshirt season.
"He was sitting in his chair and Scott's a pretty religious guy and said he just felt God pushing him out of his chair," Kansas state right tackle Dalton Risner recalled at Big 12 media days. "He said that day at that moment it just felt like the right spot and God put him in that position."
Kansas State had brought a speaker into its players-only meeting that winter. The speaker's message: How often do you and your teammates — who call yourselves a family, consider yourself a brotherhood — actually ask "Hey man, what are you going through?" Do you really know each other?
A team reveal began. Guys shared home life struggles. Then it "escalated really, really quickly," Risner said. It was 18 months later, on camera with ESPN's Holly Rowe, that Frantz made the news public.
Frantz will be the first openly gay player to compete in the Big 12 when the Wildcats open their season on Sept. 2. He'll join Arizona freshman defensive end My-King Johnson as the first Power 5 college football players to do so, three years after Missouri's Michael Sam came out ahead of the NFL draft.
Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL when the Rams selected him in the seventh round (249th overall) in 2014. He spent time on practice squads, including the Cowboys', but never made an active NFL roster.
Frantz told ESPN he was sharing his story to help other gay athletes. He declined to comment for this article and will next speak to the media at Kansas State's media day Thursday.
"I spent my whole childhood hating myself because of who I was," Frantz said in the video, released July 13. "I was angry I was (gay) and I was depressed at times. I want to share my message to tell other people in my spot that you can be loved, can be accepted, can be who you are. It's just not a big deal anymore."
That message echoed across Big 12 media days. Though Wildcats coach Bill Snyder acknowledged there was "uncertainty" before the announcement, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury applauded the decision and players' "openmindedness." Texas coach Tom Herman told SportsDay that Kansas State has fostered an environment all teams should strive to emulate, and a player coming out at Texas would be "just fine." Seven players from four schools spoke to SportsDay about Frantz's decision too.
Players are happy for Frantz, they said, admiring his courage, hoping his move further encourages acceptance around the conference and country. All said they expected and hoped their school would respond similarly to Kansas State if a teammate came out as gay.
"I think more people need to have the same bravery he took," Texas senior linebacker Naashon Hughes said. "I think that would help today's society a whole lot more than where we're at right now."
Baylor offensive lineman Blake Blackmar agreed.
"What we've been moving toward as a school is everyone deserves to be treated equally and you respect everyone," Blackmar said, "so good for him."
How would Baylor react if a teammate came out as a gay?
"We love everyone on the team, you're a part of the family, you're a part of the brotherhood," Blackmar said. "We would not have any major issues. You're one of us."
Statistically, Scott Frantz is not the only gay player in the Big 12. A 2017 Gallup poll of LGBT Americans found 10 million American adults — 4.1 percent — identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Among millennials, that figure rose to 7.3 percent.
If the latter statistic carried over to the Big 12, roughly seven players per team — 70 across the conference — would identify as LGBT. And yet, Frantz will be the first Big 12 player to compete openly gay.
Could that change soon?
Kansas State players think Frantz has set a precedent. Far from his announcement becoming a distraction, his decision to trust teammates instead enhanced the team's chemistry, Kansas State tight end Dalton Valentine said.
"It was one of those things where Day 1, it's like 'OK, he told us,' " Valentine said. "And then Day 2, it was just a normal day."
The announcement didn't detract from field production: Frantz started all 13 games in 2016, the first K-State left tackle to start his entire freshman season since 1988. His blocking helped the Wildcats set a program record for rushing yards per carry (5.27). Their 231.8 rushing yards per game and 3,013 total rushing yards both cracked top three in school history.
In Kansas State's bowl game win vs. Texas A&M, Frantz even drew praise around the country for shutting down defensive end Myles Garrett, who went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Garrett had a single tackle and zero sacks in the game; Frantz received All-Bowl team recognition.
That, rather than sexual orientation, is the lens through which the conference sees Frantz, already ranked sixth among 110 tackles in his draft class by NFLDraftScout.com. As far as players and coaches across the Big 12 are concerned, they'll need to scheme against a bright, physically gifted left tackle.
"People know Scott because 'Hey, you're the guy who shut down Myles Garrett,' " Risner said.
"He's a tremendous player, first and foremost," Kingsbury chimed in. "And then to have that type of strength to come out in front of his teammates and the support they showed him ... is phenomenal."
Strength is the key word, Valentine said.
"Thinking he's supposed to be this big, giant tough guy and protector ... Scott struggled with (coming out) for a while," Valentine said. "I'm really proud of him for being able to do it.
"I think it shows that he is one of the strongest O-linemen in the Big 12."