The Missouri Tigers put together a magical season in 2013. After going 5-7 in 2012, their first season in the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers rebounded to finish at 12-2, claiming the SEC Eastern Division title and a Cotton Bowl bid along the way.
Head coach Gary Pinkel was given a lot of credit for the turnaround, and rightfully so. After all, this was a team that was picked to finish at or near the bottom of its own division.
What we didn’t know at the time was that Pinkel and his staff were dealing with an even bigger issue. One of Mizzou’s top defensive players, defensive end Michael Sam, had told teammates in preseason meetings that he was gay. However, none of the players or coaches revealed Sam’s secret.
This is a credit to the entire group. If Sam had revealed his secret in the preseason, or at any point during the season, the matter could have become a huge issue in the media, even though it apparently did not become an issue within the Missouri locker room.
In fact, it could have been this issue that brought the Tigers together and helped them have such an amazing season. The unity that keeping this secret created could have helped the Tigers get through another tough SEC slate.
Sam, who will be drafted by an NFL team in May, has been classy and courageous over the last 24 hours, and will continue to be so. The Missouri Tigers have been, and will be, supportive of Sam. And that type of family atmosphere could have been one of the reasons that the team came through with such an impressive 2013 season.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.