Michael Sam, Mizzou Football, Sports, The Maneater

Small-town students stomp big message

The snow-carved letters weren’t a message from LGBT activists.

Footsteps spelling S and A are visible next to the outline of the rock M at Memorial Stadium. The letters were carved early Monday morning after former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced that he is gay. MIKE KREBS/The Maneater

Footsteps spelling S and A are visible next to the outline of the rock M at Memorial Stadium. The letters were carved early Monday morning after former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced that he is gay. MIKE KREBS/The Maneater

They just wanted to snowboard.

Mark, a freshman, and Alex, a sophomore, scaled the fences of Memorial Stadium early Monday morning with unassuming plans.

What they did instead earned national recognition from the likes of ESPN and CBS.

Unsatisfied with the slopes on Faurot Field’s north hill, the pair carved the letters S and A into the snow in front of the famous rock M to spell “SAM.” The duo had seen NFL draft-bound defensive end Michael Sam come out on ESPN earlier Sunday evening.

“Mind you, this was all the night before management test,” Mark said.

“So this is what we did instead of studying,” Alex added, speaking in a joint interview with The Maneater on Monday night.

Mark grabbed his roommate’s purple bandana to shield his eyes from snow and thought of Sam and his announcement. They set out to carving and stomping the letters down in a methodical, single-file line. The entire process took about 25 minutes.

“We sat there and contemplated the S for like five minutes,” Alex said.

By mid-morning, the university’s Twitter account had published a photo. By that afternoon it was picked up by CBS SportsFOX Sports and Bleacher Report, among other national outlets.

“When we were about to leave we were like, ‘Man, no one’s ever gonna see this besides the construction workers,’ ” Alex said.

“We never thought it would get this big,” Mark said.

But Alex and Mark said the goal was not originally to make a statement. They’re just a couple of troublemakers, they said, looking to take advantage of some fresh white powder.

In high school, they each led rambunctious student sections in a small town in eastern Missouri and played pranks on classmates. It was not the first time they hopped the fence on Faurot Field. Every freshman has to “kiss the 50,” after all.

Neither Mark nor Alex said they consider themselves ardent supporters of gay rights. Mark said he thinks people should simply do what makes them happy.

“He’s not hurting anybody,” Alex said, head nodding.

The duo told their parents and a few close friends about the stunt Monday. Mark’s mom made him rehearse a statement in support of gay rights. His dad told him he didn’t want to know if he was involved in the viral photo.

“All day we were kinda stressed out,” Alex said. “We were like, ‘All right, Mizzou’s kinda getting publicity for this, so I hope they’re not too mad about it.’ ”

But as the university showed the inscription as a matter of pride, tensions eased. When the athletic department hosted a press conference in Faurot Field’s press box, cameras pointed down at the hill after coach Gary Pinkel and Athletic Director Mike Alden finished their remarks.

“I thought that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?” Pinkel said during the press conference, describing how the image lept off his turf and onto Twitter.

As reporters buzzed to try to find the snowy sculpture’s origin, university media personnel couldn’t offer any answers. Some activists, maybe or some kids, they said.

“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Alex said.

Alden said he enjoyed the work, though was curious of its origin.

“It was awesome,” he said Tuesday. “I thought it looked really cool. Not sure who did it, but it looked great.”

Alex’s accomplice said the rapid guessing around the carving was the most entertaining part.

“I love all the speculation,” Mark said.

But with all the attention instantly blasted upon their late-night piece of work, the pair said they will likely stay out of the fray that ensues when Sam heads to the draft or when protesters from Westboro Baptist Church are slated to arrive Saturday.

“I don’t want to start a fight,” Mark said.

After all, he was only there to snowboard.



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