Former Missouri quarterback James Franklin's beliefs about homosexuality stopped him short of a show of support for former teammate Michael Sam, who is the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect, but the Tigers' three-year starter said he was accepting of the SEC's Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
"I don't drink. I don't curse. I don't support (homosexuality) -- but it doesn't mean I don't accept Michael," Franklin told tmz.com.
While Sam was among three defensive leaders for the Tigers this season, along with fellow draft prospects Kony Ealy at defensive end and cornerback E.J. Gaines, Franklin was a key element to the Missouri offense that was among the SEC's best. Despite missing a month with a shoulder injury, Franklin passed for 2,429 yards with a 19 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Considered a team leader, Franklin was named team captain by the players last August even before being declared the starting quarterback by coach Gary Pinkel. That was the same month that Sam's sexual orientation became known team-wide after he first told a smaller group of players that he is gay during a team-building exercise at the home of an assistant coach.
"I wouldn't say supportive, but accepting. A lot of people confuse supporting and accepting," Franklin said of his reaction to Sam's news. "... Michael respected us. He didn't make us feel uncomfortable in the locker room. He can be whoever he wants to be. I'll be there for him no matter what."
TMZ's characterization that Franklin is also expected to be drafted in May is a stretch, given that Franklin was not among 335 prospects invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which is far more players than will be chosen in the May 8-10 draft. If he is not chosen, Franklin could get an opportunity to make a roster as an undrafted free agent.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.