Kansas State offensive lineman Scott Frantz told his teammates a year ago that he was gay. His coach had instructed each player to share something about himself that no one else knew.
It’s a typical team-building exercise. The thinking is that revealing secrets tightens bonds — and a close group of players will trust one another more readily when the pressure grows greatest.
Yet Frantz provided an atypical response, telling his fellow Wildcats he realized he probably was gay back in the fifth grade and that he didn’t fully accept the idea himself until he was a junior in high school. Still, Frantz told no one, including his family or the college coaches who recruited the 6-foot-5, 293-pound lineman, who grew up in Lawrence, Kan., about a 90-minute drive from Manhattan.
Once he opened up to teammates and coaches, Frantz decided he wanted to let more people know his former secret. That’s why he started asking K-State coach Bill Snyder earlier this year if he should do more.
Snyder said Tuesday that he and Frantz, who started all 13 games last season at left tackle, met several times to talk. And although Frantz’s sexual orientation was never a “major issue,” the 77-year-old Snyder wondered how the news would play beyond the team.
Finally, Snyder called ESPN reporter Holly Rowe to arrange an interview. Frantz told his story last week. Before the interview aired, Arizona freshman defensive end My-King Johnson was thought to be the only player on an FBS team who had announced publicly he was gay.
“Yes, I had some uncertainty about it at that particular point in time and the impact,” Snyder said. “And he and I had several discussions and we talked about the impact that it might have on, not his teammates in regards to how they felt, but the response from outside — social media response, the response of the fan base, the response of faculty and administration and the world, so to speak. And cautioning him that there could be some issues because of that.
“We talked about it for an extensive period of time, and what impressed me so much … was the fact that he wanted to do it for the right reasons, number one, and it wasn’t about exposing him to the media as such or making himself a national figure. What he wanted to do was help others, number one. That was important to me.
“Number two, he wanted the opportunity to feel free to live his life as he would like to do so, and he felt hindered prior to that being able to do so. I appreciated those things because I thought they were meaningful. I thought the idea that he could help others really hit home with me at the time. So we decided to allow it to happen, and I think the response has been excellent to this point in time. So I’m proud of him. I’m proud of our players and how they handled it.”
Kansas State’s offensive line is considered a strength, and Frantz plays the most significant position along that line. Last fall, he became the first freshman to start at left tackle for K-State in almost three decades.
Quarterback Jesse Ertz said of Frantz’s decision to come out to his teammates: “He was really going out on a limb, and it’s pretty amazing to think that nobody told anybody. It kind of goes to show the type of team we have, the type of teammates we have. Obviously he was supported well. I’m really happy for the public’s response because it’s been nothing but positive.”
Frantz told ESPN that when he told his teammates, he’d “never felt so loved and so accepted ever in my life.”
“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.”