MANHATTAN — As Scott Frantz recently learned, it is big news when a college football player reveals he is gay.
The Kansas State offensive lineman created a stir last month when he came out on national television, following in the footsteps of former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam and joining Arizona State's My-King Johnson as the openly gay players in college football. He has since learned what it is like to receive hundreds of messages from strangers and to become the subject of sports debate.
But he's not sure things will always be this way.
"Give it another four years and it might not be anything," Frantz said. "The culture is definitely changing."
Though he became a national story, Frantz doesn't think his announcement was anything close to the circus that followed Sam when he came out in 2014. Frantz says he has received nearly unanimous love and support from his K-State teammates, and the responses on social media have been much kinder than he expected. There was some ugliness, too, but nothing he couldn't handle.
He considers that progress.
"Michal Sam came out three years ago and that was a huge deal. It was a bombshell," Frantz said. "You see what I did, and it was big for a little bit. But it died down, definitely not a huge deal."
Frantz hopes the day comes when being a gay college football player isn't any kind of deal.
That is part of the reason why he publicly came out, more than a year after revealing his secret to teammates.
"I was very skeptical of doing something like that," Frantz said. "I am a very private guy, a very low-key guy, and it was very nerve-racking to do that. But the more I thought about it, the more I mulled the decision over in my head ... you only have one chance to live. If you can help other people that is all that really matters. I felt that me coming out in a public way, if I could just help one person, I'm glad I did it."
He has no regrets.
"I have had hundreds of people e-mail me and text me to say 'I am so and so from this small town and your words gave me hope,' " Frantz said. "I did this so I can move on and take a weight off my shoulders, but the most important thing was being able to reach out to other people that have gone through the same things I have. I wanted to tell them, 'It's OK. It's not a big deal anymore. You can be who you are and not be afraid or hurt yourself.' "
Now that he has helped others, Frantz is ready to help K-State's offensive line. That's good, because the Wildcats will ask plenty of him this season.
Frantz, a redshirt sophomore, is projected to be one of the top left tackles in the Big 12. If he can reproduce the level of play he showed against Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, the No 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, then K-State will take its chances against any edge-rusher this season.
Matched up against Frantz in the Texas Bowl, Garrett managed one assisted tackle and no sacks. Many tuned in to see what the up-and-coming star could do in his final college game, but Frantz stole the show. Garrett never had a quieter game.
"Scott is a great tackle, and so is Dalton (Risner). To me, they are the best in the Big 12," K-State defensive end Reggie Walker said. "Me and Scott always talk about ways we can help each other and get better. He tells me the best ways to use my hands and get around him. I'm glad he does, because he is very hard to beat."
Still, Frantz has improvements to make. Though he showed potential against Texas A&M, he was inconsistent most of the year. He was solid as a run-blocker, but sometimes had lapses protecting the pocket.
That's understandable for a freshman. More will be asked now that he is a sophomore.
"He started becoming a really good football player, a really good left tackle," K-State offensive line coach Charlie Dickey said. "But he has still got to work on his sets. He has still got to work on his punch. He has still got to work on being a better bender. There are a lot of things he needs to continue to work on, and he will be the first one to tell you that. But he is really honing his craft."
His play will be on full display this season. It's easy for some offensive linemen to blend into the background, with fans only recognizing their major mistakes. Things might be different for Frantz now that he is one of the most notable blockers in the Big 12, if not the nation. His blocking will be analyzed in every game.
He hopes being a gay football player doesn't warrant extra attention, but he's prepared to handle it for as long as it does.
"It might be a little bit different out there," Frantz said. "Trash talk might be more personal this season, but I'm not worried about that. I'm out to break some stereotypes and show people that I am a good football player."