Scott Frantz hoped this moment would come.
The first openly gay Power 5 college football player to compete, he hoped that the NFL barrier would break, even though he ultimately didn’t break it himself.
But after Frantz failed to land on an NFL roster when he declared for the 2020 draft, he worried: Would five years elapse before an NFL player openly came out as gay? Even 10? Thanks to Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib’s announcement Monday, the wait is over.
Frantz feels lighter.
“Thanks for doing what you did,” the ex-Kansas State left tackle messaged Nassib. “You don’t know how much pressure that relieved off my shoulders. I felt like I failed our community when I couldn’t make it to the NFL. You the man.”
Former Kansas State left tackle Scott Frantz came out publicly in 2017. (Photo: Michael C. Johnson, USA TODAY Sports)
Nassib, a 73-game NFL vet with 20.5 career sacks since 2016, announced he is gay via an Instagram post and video. His message: Representation and visibility matter. LGBTQ+ suicide is a risk.
“I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and compassionate,” Nassib said in the video. He donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention group.
OPINION: Carl Nassib's coming out doesn't just make history. He could save lives
MORE: Who is Carl Nassib, the NFL's first openly gay active player?
“First I was like ‘OK, this is really cool because he’s the first guy to do this,’” Frantz told USA TODAY Sports. “Then I was like, ‘This is really cool because he’s a dude. He’s a dude in the NFL.’ He’s got 20-plus sacks, and I knew who he was off watching ‘Hard Knocks.’ … It’s like, ‘Wow.’ You couldn’t ask for a better person to break that barrier.
“That’s just so cool for someone like me to see.”
Frantz first told his Kansas State teammates he was gay in 2016, during his redshirt freshman season. He came out publicly in 2017 via ESPN’s Holly Rowe. At the time, with three years of eligibility remaining, he didn’t dwell on the potential impact this news could have on his NFL draft stock. The need for representation trumped all.
“Did I worry it would hurt my chances? I knew it wasn’t going to help my chances, that’s for sure,” Frantz said. “But I wasn’t worried.”
In pre-draft meetings three years later, he sought to be proactive.
Frantz figured, with legal restrictions, teams would not ask about his sexual orientation. So in addition to displaying the acumen that powered 51 straight starts at left tackle (he held the active streak among Power 5 offensive linemen), Frantz also told teams what he thought they wanted to know.
“I knew it was on their minds, so I always brought that up and told them it’s a part of who I am, it’s not who I am,” Frantz said. “I’m not here to make that the forefront or a distraction.”
Still, the 2020 NFL draft came and went without Frantz’s name called. The self-described fringe athlete who interviewed with more than 10 teams at the College Gridiron Showcase and several by phone was never invited to a training camp or team roster in an offseason further disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions. Frantz figured he “wasn’t a great athlete; my pro day was not great.” Even so, he felt like he let the gay community down when his historic collegiate run didn’t advance to the pro level.
“I wanted to be what Carl Nassib did,” Frantz said. “I wanted to be that person gay kids could look up to. When I didn’t accomplish it, it hurt. It sucked. I was bummed and I felt like a failure.”
As Nassib indicated with his Trevor Project commitment, the representation could save lives.
“It matters because kids are still killing themselves over this subject,” Frantz said. “That’s why I did it, and that’s why I respect the hell out of Carl, (who’s) got so much of a bigger platform than I ever did.
“There’s such a stereotype around gay men especially, that gay men don’t play football and gay men aren’t those type of guys. … Carl’s showing: No, you can be a gay man and play in a masculine sport and sign a $25 million contract to play football.
“You can be a gay guy and play football and get 20-plus sacks in the NFL.”
Hopefully soon, Frantz and Nassib and many around the NFL, including commissioner Roger Goodell, say an openly gay football player will not be newsworthy. Frantz has since landed in another dream calling, receiving his master’s in special education from Kansas State this year as he taught at a Lawrence, Kansas, high school. He’ll begin a middle school special education teaching gig in Frisco, Texas, this fall. Frantz strives to eventually serve as a school principal.
Nassib, meanwhile, will refocus on pass-rush moves and outsmarting tackles at the line of scrimmage. He started five games for the Raiders in 2020, notching 2.5 sacks, an interception, five pass deflections and 28 tackles in 43% of seasonal defensive snaps. Nassib said he feels an “immense responsibility” to use his platform to help prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth – but also, “I owe it to my team, coaches and Raiders fans to be completely locked in and at my best for the upcoming season.”
Frantz adopted the same approach after he came out as openly gay. He started every game for the Wildcats each of the next three seasons.
“At the end of the day, he’s still going to be a guy who’s getting sacks on Sunday and making his fans proud,” Frantz said. “For a lot of people, that’s all they care about. And that’s OK. Carl made the point of why he’s so nonchalant about it.
“It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. But I’m still also a hell of a football player.’ ”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
Source: Read Full Article