Kansas State's Scott Frantz was one of FBS’ first openly gay players. Will he get a shot at NFL?

Terez PaylorSenior NFL writer
Yahoo Sports

For the better part of the past month, Scott Frantz has spent his time in Lawrence, Kansas, diligently working out and staying in shape at home in preparation for an NFL opportunity.

A good argument can be made that Frantz getting an NFL shot should not be in question. Frantz was a four-year starter at Kansas State as a left tackle, a model of consistency in a program that prioritized that very quality for years under legendary coach Bill Snyder. Frantz’s 51 starts from 2016-19 at football’s most important offensive line position are tied for the second-most among Wildcat offensive linemen since 1990.

Yet Frantz, who publicly announced in July 2017 that he is gay, didn’t get picked to go to the NFL scouting combine or East-West Shrine Game.

And after a rough performance at Kansas State’s pro day in early March — a potential deal-breaker for NFL teams that greatly value athletic testing — it’s difficult to peg his draft stock heading into Days 2 and 3 of the event, especially given the way the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the entire nation into upheaval.

Kansas State Wildcats offensive lineman Scott Frantz (74) and his father celebrate after a 48-41 upset victory over Oklahoma in October last season. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kansas State Wildcats offensive lineman Scott Frantz (74) and his father celebrate after a 48-41 upset victory over Oklahoma in October last season. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Under normal circumstances, you never know for sure how things are going to work out, how things are going to work out for guys that are rated, sort of, in a late to priority free agency range,” Frantz’s agent, Brett Tessler, told Yahoo Sports. 

“But in light of recent events, things are even more unpredictable. This year, there are going to be guys who certainly would have been drafted that end up sliding into free agency. And there are guys who certainly would have been free agents who slide out of the picture.”

Multiple agents told Yahoo Sports they expect teams to sign a smaller pool of undrafted rookie free agents this year, largely because the pandemic means they won’t have the same amount of time to get ready for the season.

If Frantz isn’t drafted and goes unsigned as a free agent, some will wonder how much of a role Frantz’s sexuality played in it, given the fact an openly gay man has never played in a regular-season NFL game.

Some teams’ responses: ‘The truth is they knew it and they didn’t care’

Prior to signing Frantz, who came out to K-State’s entire team after the 2015 season and to the world in an ESPN article in 2017, Tessler asked two of his veteran clients how they would react to having an openly gay teammate. He wanted to get a sense for how Frantz would be welcomed in the NFL.

“And both of them had the exact same answer, which is — if he’s a good player and he’s a good guy, nobody’s going to give a s--- what he does in his personal life,” Tessler said.

Tessler also had some conversations with people on teams he respected throughout the league.

“Nobody was like, ‘Oh my God, don’t do it,’ ” Tessler said. “But there were some people that did say, ‘Hey, maybe for some teams it would be an issue. For us, it’s not.’ The one thing that I heard that’s encouraging to me from people like [former assistant Atlanta Falcons general manager] Scott Pioli or coaches, [is] that once it came out that former players of theirs was gay, their response is, ‘Yeah, tell us something we didn’t know.’ Like, the truth is they knew it and they didn’t care.”

And if — if — there are teams that have an issue, Frantz’s unfortunate pro day performance may have given them an out.

Kansas State's Scott Frantz (R) was a four-year starter. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kansas State's Scott Frantz (R) was a four-year starter. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Will Frantz’s pro day be a problem for teams?

A few days before Kansas State’s pro day on March 8, Frantz tweaked his hamstring. Linemen are tough guys by nature, prone to playing through all sorts of aches and pains. A player doesn’t start 51 straight college games at left tackle without doing that. So Frantz thought little of it and worked out for the scouts anyway.

“When he went out there and stretched or whatever, it tightened back up on him and he just tried to go ahead and go through the pro day, and obviously, as it relates to the results, it obviously did more harm than good,” Tessler said. “He didn’t have the confidence to explode on it or any of that stuff and he just tried to fight his way through it.”

He struggled in his 40, vertical jump, broad jump, cone drills and more.

Frantz ran the 40 in 5.73 seconds, far slower than the 5.3 time Tessler expected. It was the slowest of any of the 15 Wildcats who worked out that day. His vertical jump (22½ inches), broad jump (7 feet, 11 inches) were the lowest of anyone at the pro day, and his three-cone (8.24 seconds) was the slowest, too. He also put up 18 reps on the bench press, which would have been the second fewest at the combine among offensive linemen. 

Tessler has been doing this long enough to know that when teams saw those numbers and combined them with Frantz’s questionable measurables — he has 8¾-inch hands which are small for a lineman and 32-inch arms, short for offensive tackles — some would not see him as a viable prospect.

“You wish he didn’t work out, but you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” said Tessler, who quickly went to work trying to explain the situation. “You definitely want to get it out there that those numbers aren’t necessarily what they seem, and the good news is, those numbers are actually so bad that in a way, teams have to believe what I’m telling them. Because when you watched the guy’s film, the quickness and things you see are clearly not indicative of a guy who runs a 5.75 40.”

Coronavirus pandemic prevents additional workouts

Despite Frantz’s pro day performance, Tessler says some teams have shown interest in the days and weeks since. And during a normal year, his client would have had ample opportunity to improve on those numbers and sell himself to teams during pre-draft visits.

But 2020 has been anything but normal. After K-State’s pro day, Frantz was invited to the Kansas City Chiefs’ local pro day, but it ended up being canceled due to the pandemic. A few other teams also expressed interest in bringing Frantz in for workouts following his pro day, Tessler says, but those never materialized due to COVID-19.

One of the reasons Tessler pursued Frantz as a client is he reminds him of many players he has represented who have gone on to have successful careers despite not having the longest arms, or being the fastest or bulkiest prospect.

“Guys like this who play with great technique, who play with great intelligence, great toughness, great competitiveness,” Tessler said. “You take a guy like Mike Remmers, who’s on the Chiefs now. He wasn’t invited to the combine, wasn’t invited to any all-star game and had to fight just to get in the door as a free agent with the Broncos.”

Like Remmers, an offensive tackle who is entering his ninth NFL season and has collected nearly $18 million in earnings, Tessler could see Frantz carving out a career with his technique, footwork and consistency. Frantz could even kick as far inside as center, he noted, a position NFL scouts asked him to practice at the College Gridiron Showcase in Texas.

“I can’t see any reason why he can’t develop at that position if need be,” Tessler said. “At the All-Star Game, the teams definitely took an interest in him and he definitely was interviewed there by most teams.”

Hoping for the best

Frantz has turned down multiple media interview requests over the past three months, including Yahoo Sports, preferring to keep a low profile.

“We haven’t made a conscious decision not to discuss [his sexuality]” Tessler said. “It’s just he’s never made an issue out of it in the past and he doesn’t really plan on making an issue out of it in the future.

“He’s lived his life the way anybody else who plays in this sport should live their life, and some guys, out there, by nature have a message or agenda that they’re trying to put across. But in the case of Scott Frantz, all he wants to do is play football. He just wants to be treated like any other player — nothing more or nothing less.”

Starting with the draft, the decision as to whether he gets a chance to do that in the NFL in 2020 lies in the hands of teams’ decision makers. 

“Clearly, we hope for the best,” Tessler said. “But if things don’t go the way we hoped this weekend, we’ll certainly cross that bridge when we get to it. And if there’s another avenue we need to explore, like possibly Canada or something else, we’ll have that conversation and we’ll go from there.”

The ultimate goal remains the NFL. Despite all the bad luck Frantz has been endured during the pre-draft process, both he and his agent will wait in the coming days in hopes of seeing Frantz’s dream coming to fruition.

“Under normal circumstances, I would like to believe Scott Frantz would definitely warrant an opportunity,” Tessler said. “And I sure as heck hope that somebody’s going to give him one.”

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