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October 10, 2013

Singing, joking Michael Sam sets the tone for Missouri’s defensive line

“Mike Sam is a singer,” sophomore Shane Ray said of the senior leader of Missouri’s defensive line. “He creates a remix to any song, and he sings it at practice repeatedly.” Lately, Sam has been singing on the field, too. Usually, it’s a lullaby for the opposing quarterback.

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam wasn’t made available for interviews Monday during the team’s weekly media day, but his presence was felt.

Teammates were grilled about Sam, a senior and the Southeastern Conference leader in sacks (six) and tackles for a loss (10).

And he did make one brief appearance, popping out onto the second floor landing for an R&B serenade as senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington talked.

Apparently, that’s pretty common for Sam, who was added Monday to the Bednarik Award watch list.

“Mike Sam is a singer,” sophomore defensive end Shane Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate, said. “He creates a remix to any song and he sings it at practice repeatedly.”

Lately, Sam has been singing on the field, too. Usually, it’s a lullaby for the opposing quarterback.

He has claimed the SEC defensive lineman of the week award in consecutive weeks after registering three sacks against Arkansas State and racking up three more as the Tigers opened conference play with a 51-28 win Saturday at Vanderbilt.

“He’s playing a very high level right now,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “I think he had three sacks in back-to-back games, which is very difficult to do. I don’t care who you’re playing.”

Sam, who is the elder statesman on the defensive line, is setting the bar pretty high of late, and the other players on the unit are falling suit, but that goes beyond stats. It’s also about the energy and effort with which Sam’s been playing.

“He’s a warrior and he’s going to keep going and going and going,” junior defensive end Kony Ealy said. “That’s what our coaches preach for us when we’re out there on the field. You get tired out there, but the thing is other players are getting tired too. Whoever keeps going and going the most will reap the reward.”

Obviously, going against No. 7 Georgia, it would go a long way toward No. 25 Missouri pulling an upset if Sam continued his recent string of dominant performances.

“Michael Sam’s an animal,” junior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said. “He’s always upbeat, positive, he’s always ready to go. He always keeps us up on the sideline and that next-level mindset.”

He also helps Missouri stay “loosey-goosey” — that’s a Steckelism, by the way — between games. Part of it’s the singing. He runs onto the practice field crooning in addition showers teammates and media with tunes during interviews.

“Mike is our comedian and he gets us through practice,” Ray said. “… Practice is essentially a job. Every day, you go out there and you’re working, but you don’t want to go out there and just be going through the motions.”

Sam makes sure practice stays light and fun, like the guy in your office who always digs up the funniest videos on YouTube and provides a midday laugh to keeps Monday afternoon relatively cheery.

Lately, he also helped ensure the game remain fun too, at least for Missouri and its fans.

“We’ve been doing the same thing we’ve been doing all year, which is just going hard out there,” Golden said. “Early in the year, we were getting hits on quarterbacks, but now the sacks are starting to come. We feel like if we go 100 percent every game, the sacks are going to come.”

The Tigers have 12 sacks in the last two games — and don’t intend to slow down anytime soon.

“We always see sacks coming,” junior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said. “That’s what we train for. That’s what we live for.”

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