Editor's note: Michael Sam, a former defensive end for Missouri, asked that this letter be published today, when he and other NFL prospects will be working out during the school's pro day. Colleges hold pro days during March and April for NFL scouts to watch players on their home turf. Sam has declined to speak to the press about pro day. He made sports history earlier this year when he announced that he was gay, and if drafted, he would be the first openly gay player in the NFL.
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.