The room fell silent when Kansas State offensive lineman Scott Frantz told his teammates he was gay.
But only for a moment.
Once K-State football players processed what Frantz had shared with them in a players-only meeting designed to help them bond before the start of the 2016 season, the room filled with cheers and words of support.
“I distinctly remember the guy I was sitting next to, Steven West, standing up and telling him, ‘No one cares. You are still Scott to us,’” former K-State receiver Deante Burton said. “Then we all kind of started telling him the same thing, that it doesn’t change who you are or how we see you. That was the instant feeling we all got.”
“It’s a decision and it doesn’t bother me none. At the end of the day, you are still Scott. You are still our brother, you still bleed and sweat and cry with us. It doesn’t change who you are or how we see you. I think that is what made it such a good thing for him and for all of us.”
Frantz, K-State’s sophomore starting left tackle, took things a step further when he came out on national television in an interview with ESPN on Thursday. He went public on a morning edition of “SportsCenter” in order to help “all the other kids who are just like me.”
He said he was in tears when he shared his secret with teammates. Their support meant the world to him.
“I came out to my teammates, and I’ve never felt so loved and so accepted ever in my life than when I did that,” Frantz told ESPN reporter Holly Rowe. “And ever since then it’s been great. I’ve grown so much closer to my teammates since. So it’s been an amazing experience.”
Teammates said Frantz asked them to treat him no differently than they had before, and they obliged. Life went on in the K-State locker room like normal.
Frantz said he later informed K-State football coach Bill Snyder that he was gay, and Snyder responded by telling Frantz it was no big deal and that he is a good football player.
Snyder was also supportive of Frantz sharing his story.
“What impressed me about this story is that Scott really thought that he could assist others who were experiencing perhaps the same thing or something very similar to this,” Snyder said in a release. “And that hit home with me. And you know I wanted him to have the opportunity to be able to assist others who may be in a somewhat similar situation not necessarily in athletics but just in general.”
“I was quite comfortable that (our team) would be very receptive and that they would treat him as they always have — as his teammate and someone that they cared about. And they did.”
Several K-State football players showed support for Frantz on Thursday through social media.
“Couldn’t be more proud to call (Frantz) my brother,” junior tight end Dayton Valentine posted on Twitter.
“Best birthday present I got was (Frantz) getting to do what he has wanted to do for a long time today! It is just the start! Much love,” junior right tackle Dalton Risner posted.
Actor Eric Stonestreet, a K-State graduate who portrays a gay man on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” also showed support by writing “super proud of Scott and the entire Kansas State football family” on Twitter.
Still, coming out wasn’t an easy decision for Frantz. He felt conflicted right up until he told his teammates.
“I felt sick, because I had something on my chest that I wanted to get out there that I never told anybody,” Frantz said. “That was that I am a gay man. I remember I stood up and I felt like passing out. I just sat on the ground and I was crying.”
His teammates helped him find the courage to speak.
“Everyone stood behind him, and we all still do,” former K-State linebacker Elijah Lee said. “It’s not like this is new to us. We have known and accepted it. It doesn’t really matter who accepts him outside of that. He is still part of the family. He still contributed and played at the highest levels without distraction. It was no big deal to people in our K-State family.”
Frantz, a 6-foot-5 former Lawrence Free State High standout, is expected to be one of the best tackles in the Big 12 this season.
He is coming off an impressive freshman year in which he started all 13 games and had a stellar performance in the Texas Bowl. In that game, Frantz kept Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, in check by holding him to one assisted tackle and no sacks. It was Garrett’s quietest game of the season and K-State won 33-28.
“I have the utmost respect for what he did in the Texas Bowl,” Lee said. “Not many freshmen tackles, if any, could do that.”
Frantz told Rowe he knew he was gay in the fifth grade but didn’t accept it until his junior year of high school. He didn’t tell his family until a week after his announcement inside K-State’s football meeting room.
He is one of only a few openly gay football players. There will be only two active in the college game next season. Frantz is one, freshman Arizona defensive end My-King Johnson is the other.
It took courage for Frantz to join that group, and that’s what most impressed his teammates.
“When he came out and told us he was gay, I thought, this is a strong dude,” Burton said. “I think he’s even stronger today, coming out and doing it on national television. The way the world is, some people are going to say that is not OK. But he’s not afraid. He’s courageous. I am super proud of him.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett