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Nothing has changed about Michael Sam for C.J. Mosley, the Alabama linebacker who met the Missouri defensive end at the Bronko Nagurski Awards banquet in December, two months before Sam came out as gay.
Sam and Mosley were among five finalists for the national defensive player of the year award that went to Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Sunday, as he prepares to enter the NFL, Sam announced he is gay.
"I got to know Michael as a person. Just because he came out saying he's openly gay doesn't change the person he is," Mosley told USA TODAY Sports on Monday at IMG Football Academy, where he is training for the Feb.19-25 NFL scouting combine. "I'll still respect him the same way when I see him -- great football player, great guy.
"As a man, he's a good guy. My parents met him. He makes his own choices. You can't really doubt him for that."
Mosley led Alabama in tackles and won the Butkus Award as the nation's top college linebacker. Both players were first-team All-America selections.
Prospects and veteran players training at IMG's complex are well aware of the conversation Sam's announcement has stirred less than two weeks before the combine convenes in Indianapolis and three months before Sam enters the May 8-10 draft.
"It's going to be a big topic throughout this draft process," Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "It's unfortunate for him that someone might look past the football player. You never know."
The question lingers: How much acceptance will there be in an NFL locker room for Sam, who had 111/2 sacks and 48 tackles for Missouri last season?
Third-year Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo still isn't sure how the first openly gay player will be received.
"It's a first, so nobody really knows," Castonzo said. "Depending on what team he goes to, depending on who is around, nobody really knows what the reaction is going to be, because it's never happened before. So we'll just have to wait and see.
"Ultimately it's about, can he help you win on Sundays? That's what the NFL is about."
Added Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin: "I don't think it'll be a big problem. His play speaks for itself. And at the end of the day, it's a business and it comes down to how you play on the field."