Fans gave Michael Sam a standing ovation Saturday when he appeared on arena video screens during Missouri's home basketball game against Tennessee.
Sam, the first openly gay NFL draft prospect, showed his appreciation for the warm welcome, blowing a kiss to the student section before high-fiving and hugging several fans. Sam and the rest of the Missouri football team were honored at halftime of the game for their AT&T Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State.
Sam also published a tweet thanking fans who gathered outside the arena Saturday, forming a "human wall" in an effort to drown out a Westboro Baptist Church protest denouncing him:
Some students wore "Stand with Sam" pins and shirts:
And others made signs to express their support:
The next big step in the draft process for Sam, the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, is the Feb. 22-25 NFL Scouting Combine. Draft projections on Sam vary from a third- to fifth-rounder to going undrafted, so a strong performance could go a long way toward solidifying his standing as a likely mid-round pick in the May 8-10 draft.