Lawrence native Scott Frantz becomes one of two openly gay players in college football

Kansas State offensive lineman Scott Frantz, right, looks to block Iowa State defensive end Jhaustin Thomas (8) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former Free State offensive lineman Scott Frantz, now a redshirt sophomore at Kansas State, told ESPN that he is gay in an interview released Thursday morning.

Frantz is one of two openly gay active players in Division I college football, along with Arizona’s incoming freshman defensive end My-King Johnson.

In his interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe, Frantz said he divulged his sexual orientation to his Kansas State teammates during a team-building activity in 2015, his redshirt season.

“I felt sick because I had something on my chest that I wanted to get out there, that I’ve never told anybody and that was that I’m a gay man,” said Frantz, describing the moment he told his team. “I remember I stood up and I felt like passing out. I had to sit down on the ground. I was crying. (Running back) Alex Barnes actually came over to me, put his arms around me and I told him my story.

“For as long as I remembered, I struggled with who I am. I didn’t think that anyone could love me. I didn’t think that they could accept me. I was afraid of who I was. I was angry of who I was. I just felt myself needing to say it, so I did. I came out to my teammates and I’ve never felt so loved and so accepted ever in my life than when I did that. Ever since then, it’s been great.”

After his announcement to his collegiate teammates, Frantz reached out to some of his closest friends in Lawrence. They learned of his decision to reveal his sexual orientation publicly when they saw stories on Twitter.

“Man, it was awesome,” said Bryce Torneden, a sophomore defensive back at Kansas. “He texted me a couple of weeks back and let me know what was going on, but I didn’t know it was going to be today…. I thought how much courage it takes to be able to do that, even in the first place, let alone the national stage.”

Frantz, who couldn’t be reached for comment, started all 13 games at left tackle last season, and drew headlines for his performance against Texas A & M defensive end Myles Garrett, the eventual No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, during the Texas Bowl. Garrett was held to one assisted tackle and zero sacks, earning Frantz a spot on the Associated Press All-Bowl team.

ESPN reported that Frantz knew he was gay in the fifth grade but he didn’t tell his family until a week following his announcement to his teammates.

“I was very skeptical of coming out in such a public way, but ultimately wanted to use this platform as a tool to reach out to people who feel like they can’t be who they are,” Frantz wrote on his Twitter account.

Among his friends and former teammates, they weren’t surprised to see Frantz doing all that he can to help other kids who might be in similar situations. In a statement, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder said he was impressed by Frantz’s willingness to help others, “and that hit home with me.”

“There’s no one else who would be better at speaking on behalf of kids around the country who aren’t sure about themselves or they didn’t feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Shane Hofer, a junior at KU and a former lineman at Free State.

Reading the reaction to Frantz’s announcement on social media, Hofer said it was 100 percent positive from people who knew him.

Frantz, who was the first Kansas State freshman to start at left tackle in more than 25 years, has always been viewed as a leader among his former teammates and Thursday’s announcement only confirmed it.

“He’s definitely one of the key role models in my life, for sure,” Torneden said. “He’s always doing the right thing. This is kind of another pivotal thing in his life that shows the leadership qualities that he has and that he’s always possessed. I couldn’t ever imagine going through that and just the courage and the strength that it takes to do this. It’s very humbling.”