COLUMBIA — Throughout his senior season, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam did his best to duck the spotlight.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
He declined interview requests, saying he preferred to focus on graduating Sam received a degree in sports management Saturday and let his play do the talking.
Of course, Sams play spoke volumes.
How loud was it? When the Associated Press selected Sam as a first-team All-American on Tuesday, he became the 12th Tiger football player and only the third on defense to win consensus All-American honors.
Its so difficult to be (a consensus All-American), Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. You think of all the great defensive linemen weve had around here, too. Youd think wed have more of them on the wall. But hes very worthy of it. Its historic.
The NCAA officially recognizes five postseason All-American lists. Players who make the first team on three of the lists are considered consensus All-Americans, while players who appear on all five are unanimous.
Sam, who also was a first-team selection by the Walter Camp Foundation and The Sporting News, is Missouris first consensus All-American since tight end Michael Egnew in 2010 and the sixth under coach Gary Pinkel.
The American Football Coaches Association and Football Writers Association of American havent released their lists, so Sam could become only the second unanimous MU All-American, joining two-way star Danny LaRose in 1960.
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is Missouris only two-time consensus All-American, in 2007-08, giving the program 13 consensus All-American honors overall.
He made a pretty dramatic leap, Pinkel said of Sam. He was a real good player last year, but it wasnt like he was a second- or third-team all-conference player last year. He went from there to being a consensus All-American.
It has become increasingly difficult for Sam to stay out of the limelight as the awards continue to pile up, so Tuesday he also broke his silence with reporters, granting the first interview since Oct. 5 after Missouris victory at Vanderbilt.
The things my team and I accomplished have been awesome, Sam said. Coach Pinkel in the beginning of the year in January just said we have to change something to earn some respect. I used that as motivation. I didnt want to not go to a bowl game or hear, Oh, we dont belong in the SEC.
Sam, who was chosen Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year by The Associated Press and shared that honor with Alabamas C.J. Mosley in a vote by the SECs coaches, certainly proved he belonged.
He became the 33rd All-American in Missouri history after leading the SEC with 10 1/2 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss. He is one sack shy of Missouris single-season record, 11 1/2 by Aldon Smith in 2009.
Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith, I was behind those guys freshman and sophomore years, so I learned from those guys, Sam said. I was like, If Aldon can do and I can learn from the best, I could be there one day, too.
Sam spent last week crisscrossing the country on the awards circuit.
He left Atlanta after the SEC championship game for Charlotte, N.C., where he was a finalist Dec. 9 for the Bronko Nagurski Award.
Two days later, Sam headed for Houston, which is roughly 40 miles north of his hometown of Hitchcock, Texas, with the rest of the Lombardi Award finalists.
I tell you what, those rich people got their moneys worth, Sam said. Ive never signed so many autographs, took so many pictures or talked to so many people in my life.
Sam had been a productive player in his first three seasons, totaling 9 1/2 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss in 38 appearances, including 10 starts.
Better focus and discipline led to greater things during a breakout senior season.
Sometimes I get (overexcited) out there playing the game and just get out of my zone, so I just kind of calmed down and started focusing on my opponent (this year), Sam said.
Pinkel isnt surprised such a switch helped Sam elevate his game.
Generally, its more mental than anything, Pinkel said. Hes physically about the same player he was a year ago, but mentally hes at a different level in how he competes and how he prepares and all those other things.
Sam also was chosen first-team All-America on Tuesday by CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated. CBS Sports also listed junior defensive end Kony Ealy on the second team and senior cornerback E.J. Gaines on the third team, while Gaines received honorable mention from Sports Illustrated.
Neither of those lists are official for consensus All-American purposes.
Associated Press All-America team
Quarterback Jameis Winston, redshirt freshman, 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, Florida State.
Running backs Andre Williams, senior, 6-0, 227, Boston College; Ka'Deem Carey, junior, 5-10, 196, Arizona.
Tackles Jake Matthews, senior, 6-5, 305, Texas A&M; Cyrus Kouandjio, junior, 6-6, 310, Alabama.
Guards Cyril Richardson, senior, 6-5, 340, Baylor; David Yankey, senior, 6-5, 313, Stanford.
Center Bryan Stork, senior, 6-4, 300, Florida State.
Wide receivers Brandin Cooks, junior, 5-10, 186, Oregon State; Mike Evans, sophomore, 6-5, 225, Texas A&M.
Tight end Jace Amaro, junior, 6-5, 260, Texas Tech.
All-purpose player Jordan Lynch, senior, 6-0, 216, Northern Illinois.
Kicker Roberto Aguayo, redshirt freshman, 6-1, 203, Florida State.
Ends Michael Sam, senior, 6-2, 255, Missouri; Jackson Jeffcoat, senior, 6-5, 250, Texas.
Tackles Aaron Donald, senior, 6-0, 285, Pittsburgh; Will Sutton, senior, 6-1, 288, Arizona State.
Linebackers Anthony Barr, senior, 6-4, 248, UCLA; C.J. Mosley, senior, 6-2, 238, Alabama; Ryan Shazier, junior, 6-2, 230, Ohio State.
Cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard, senior, 5-11, 197, Michigan State; Lamarcus Joyner, senior, 5-8, 190, Florida State.
Safeties Cody Prewitt, junior, 6-2, 220, Mississippi; Deone Bucannon, senior, 6-1, 198, Washington State.
Punter Tom Hornsey, senior, 6-3, 210, Memphis.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel, sophomore, Texas A&M.
Running backs Tre' Mason, junior, Auburn; Bishop Sankey, junior, Washington.
Tackles Cameron Erving, junior, Florida State; Taylor Lewan, senior, Michigan.
Guards Gabe Jackson, senior, Mississippi State; Xavier Su'a-Filo, junior, UCLA.
Center Gabe Ikard, senior, Oklahoma.
Wide receivers Sammy Watkins, junior, Clemson; Davante Adams, sophomore, Fresno State.
Tight end Eric Ebron, junior, North Carolina.
All-purpose player Ty Montgomery, junior, Stanford.
Kicker Anthony Fera, senior, Texas.
Ends Vic Beasley, junior, Clemson; Shilique Calhoun, sophomore, Michigan State.
Tackles Timmy Jernigan, junior, Florida State; Kelcy Quarles, junior, South Carolina.
Linebackers Trent Murphy, senior, Stanford; Khalil Mack, senior, Buffalo; Chris Borland, senior, Wisconsin.
Cornerbacks Justin Gilbert, senior, Oklahoma State; Jason Verrett, senior, TCU.
Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, junior, Alabama; Ahmad Dixon, senior, Baylor.
Punter Drew Kaser, sophomore, Texas A&M.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron, senior, Alabama.
Running backs Carlos Hyde, senior, Ohio State; Ameer Abdullah, junior, Nebraska.
Tackles Jack Mewhort, senior, Ohio State; Gregory Robinson, sophomore, Auburn.
Guards John Urschel, senior, Penn State; Ryan Groy, senior, Wisconsin.
Center Reese Dismukes, junior, Auburn.
Wide receivers Allen Robinson, junior, Penn State; Jordan Matthews, senior, Vanderbilt.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, junior, Washington.
All-purpose player Odell Beckham Jr., junior, LSU.
Kicker Jeff Budzien, senior, Northwestern.
Ends Marcus Smith, senior, Louisville; Jeremiah Attaochu, senior, Georgia Tech.
Tackles Ra'Shede Hageman, senior, Minnesota; Leonard Williams, sophomore, Southern California.
Linebackers Shayne Skov, senior, Stanford; Max Bullough, senior, Michigan State; Denicos Allen, senior, Michigan State.
Cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, junior, Oregon; Vernon Hargreaves III, freshman, Florida.
Safeties Jimmie Ward, senior, Northern Illinois; Ty Zimmerman, senior, Kansas State.
Punter Austin Rehkow, freshman, Idaho.
Consensus MU All-Americans
• 1941: Darold Jenkins, C
• 1960: Danny LaRose*, E
• 1965: Johnny Roland, DB
• 1968: Roger Wehrli, DB
• 1978: Kellen Winslow, TE
• 1986: John Clay, OL
• 1999: Rob Riti, C
• 2007: Jeremy Maclin, all-purpose; Martin Rucker, TE
• 2008: Chase Coffman, TE; Jeremy Maclin, KR/all-purpose
• 2010: Michael Egnew, TE
• 2013: Michael Sam, DE
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.