The 2013 Missouri Tigers truly were a special bunch.
On Thursday, it was announced that the Southeastern Conference has awarded Mizzou’s football team with the 2014 SEC Sportsmanship Award, given out yearly to programs that exhibit excellent sportsmanship and leadership qualities throughout the season.
The Tigers should certainly be applauded for their ability to build the incredible team dynamic that led to a 12-win season, an SEC East title and a Cotton Bowl win in the 2013-2104 season when most expected a rebuilding season at best.
But Missouri was recognized also, and more significantly, for the team’s rallying around teammate Michael Sam, who announced to the team in the preseason that he was gay. Sam then performed at nearly astronomical levels, culminating in a Co-defensive player of the year award in the SEC.
Sam was almost unanimously crowned Mizzou’s MVP for last season.
“Unknown to the outside world, Sam told his teammates in August pre-season camp of his sexual orientation.” said a press release from the SEC. “Sam determined that he did not want to disclose that fact publicly until after the 2013 season was over. His teammates respected those wishes while they accepted and supported him throughout the 2013 season.”
Sometimes an award given to multiple programs or individuals, the SEC also gave out the Sportsmanship award to Georgia’s equestrian team and Tennessee’s golf coaches.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive had nothing but kind words for those who received the award.
“Sportsmanship, civility and social responsibility are marks of character that last a lifetime,” Slive said. “We are proud of these teams from Missouri, Tennessee and Georgia and the women’s golf coaches of the SEC for setting an example for us all.”
Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams and is currently trying to make a roster– and make history, by becoming the first ever openly gay player to play on the field in an NFL game.
This award is even more important for the Mizzou football program, which still continues to grapple with finding its place in the SEC even after last season’s success. Being recognized by the conference for these attributes is one step closer to building its identity.