The powerhouse AAU program that has produced Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and eight other players in this year's NCAA tournament has a game show to thank for its newfound prowess.

As Zach Schonbrun reports in the New York Times, eighth-grade teacher and youth basketball coach Mike George hit it big on an episode of "Deal or No Deal" in 2007, winning $144,000 and putting half of that into his newly formed youth team, C.I.A. Bounce.

George had joined forces with Tony McIntyre, father of current Syracuse star Tyler Ennis, in the endeavor, and together the two purchased new uniforms, equipment and gear with their fortune. They started traveling across North America in search of better competition and accepting players who might not have been able to pay the entry fee.

"Without putting that money back into the program," McIntyre told Schonbrun. "I don’t think a lot of what we've done would have been possible.”

The top flight talent that has come out of C.I.A. Bounce the past few years is impressive, to say the least. Tristan Thompson (No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft), Anthony Bennett (No. 1 in 2012) played for George, while Wiggins, Ennis, Iowa State's Melvin Ejim and Naz Long and a handful of other players in the NCAA tournament can trace their roots to C.I.A. Bounce.

“It gave me a chance to come over here and play against the best competition, but also get recognized by schools,” Ennis said of C.I.A Bounce's new resources. “That’s the only way you can pretty much make it out of Canada to get the opportunity.”

Ennis has made the most of his opportunity, going from a top-30 prospect in his class to a potential lottery pick should he decide to leave Syracuse early. He was instrumental in Syracuse's stellar start, and he hit an unforgettable game-winner against Pittsburgh to keep the Orange undefeated. In Syracuse's victory over Western Michigan on Thursday in the NCAA tournament, the 6-foot-2 guard led the Orange in minutes (36) and assists (6) while going 7-for-11 from the field.

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Burgeoning Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard signaled this week that he'll be the next basketball standout to try his hand at rap.

Lillard says he'll join Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson in making a foray into music. Lillard told reporters that he's working on a rap mixtape to be released later this year and, assuming all goes well, he plans to follow that up with an album.

“If my profile continues to increase, I think I can go platinum with my music,” Lillard said. “Not to knock anybody else who has done it, but I can actually rap. I have a story to tell. It’s not going to just be about basketball. I have more content than that. With the way I know I can get down, and the producers that I’ll align myself with, there’s no reason not to think I couldn’t go platinum. Shaq proved it’s possible.”

Lillard says putting verses together comes more naturally to him than playing basketball, which is as impressive as it is hard to believe. The 23-year-old won Rookie of the Year last season and was voted to the All-Star Game this year. He hasn't missed a game the past two seasons, and this year he's averaging 21 points to go along with 5.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds for the upstart Trail Blazers.

If you're looking for a hint at what Lillard's music may sound like, his Instagram videos are instructive. He started a tradition called "4-Bar Friday" in which he'll lay down a few verses in a 15-second video. Here are some of his recent clips:

If rap doesn't work out for Lillard, he's got an entertainment backup plan.

“I’m not an actor but I think it’s something that I can grow into if given time,” Lillard said. “I would like to play a part like how Ray Allen played Jesus Shuttlesworth. That’s something I’m interested in among some other things.”

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Ray Niedzwiecki had been waiting some 65 years for this day.

The 81-year-old Pennsylvania native, who has been bowling since 1949, is the subject of a heartwarming new video which was filmed as he bowled the first perfect game of his life.

The game occurred at Modern Lanes in Exeter, Penn., where Niedzwiecki was participating in his bowling league. Niedzwiecki's team had already won the league championship, so he was going to try and use a new ball. But the captain of his team provided some prescient advice.

"He says, 'No, don’t do that. We’re going to go all out. We want to win as much as we can.’ So then I just put the other ball away, and I done good,” Niedzwiecki told WNEP 16.

Niedzwiecki went on to throw 12 consecutive strikes, sending everyone at the alley into a frenzy. The video below, posted on Modern Lanes' Facebook page, already has 11,000 shares.

"It's a super hard achievement for anybody," Modern Lanes owner Mark Mancini told WNEP 16. "But to be 81-years-old and accomplish it, it was the most amazing thing I ever saw."

WNEP 16's story on Niedzwiecki can be seen below:

In an extremely odd coincidence, another 81-year-old man in Pennsylvania recently bowled the first perfect game of his life

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Beast Mode has gone international.

A Washington man recently completed a cross country skiing race in Switzerland decked out in a full Marshawn Lynch uniform, including pads, a football and what appear to be dreadlocks.

"I wanted to do something to honor the Seahawks," Tony Wiederkehr told KING-TV in Seattle.

Wiederkehr, a 48-year-old aerospace engineer, pitched the idea to his wife, and after she bought in, he knew it was going down. He collected a jersey, pads and a helmet and flew to Switzerland for the 42K Engadin Ski Marathon. And yes, 42 kilometers converts to 26 miles ... and a few feet.

Along the route Wiederkehr handed out mini footballs and Seahawks helmets. He also carried a football rather than ski poles. Still, he somehow managed to finish 4,873rd out of more than 13,000 skiers.

"Everybody loves American football over here," he said after the race.

Holly Brooks, a Seattle native who competed in cross country skiing at the Sochi Olympics, was part of the U.S. contingent for Engadin along with Wiederkehr. She wrote this email to KING-TV: "I know that Seattlites have done some cool things to celebrate the Hawks, but this has got to be one of the most unique ones."

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Here's what Wiederkehr looked like on the route:

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Rick Chipman recently finished his competitive wrestling career some three decades after it started.

Chipman, 44, was a co-captain of the wrestling squad at Southern Maine, a Division III school where he enrolled at age 40. Stuart Miller of the Wall Street Journal profiles Chipman, who wrapped up his collegiate career with a 32-46 record.

During his high school days Chipman nearly won the state title twice, but he couldn't continue the pursuit in college. He dropped out the first semester of his freshman year after his fiancée got pregnant. As he grew older, Chipman always wondered whether he could still compete.

When Chipman enrolled at Southern Maine four years ago, he inquired about adding wrestling to his plate, even though he was a full-time student and working 42 hours a week as a firefighter and one day a week as a paramedic. His son, Spencer, also a student at Southern Maine, thought this was a "stupid" idea.

But Chipman trained extensively with a personal trainer and even lost 35 pounds. He finished his freshman year with a record of 3-18.

"He wasn't a step off, he was a lifetime off," Souther Maine coach Joe Pistone told Miller.

After that, however, Chipman was 29-28 in his final three years on the mat. He was named a co-captain in his senior year and at the recent NCAA Division III Northeast regional tournament he wrestled two classes above his own to make room for a teammate at his normal 157 pounds.

Chipman got used to getting pummeled by younger, stronger opponents in practice and during meets, but he says he loved it.

"You wake up sore, with a black eye, your ear is almost torn off, but you just feel better than you've ever felt in your life," he said.

Chipman is on track to graduate this spring after making Dean's List in every semester. Next fall he hopes to start law school.

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Tim Medvetz woke up and looked around. The last thing he remembered was being told he would probably have his foot cut off.

The previous day, Medvetz, then part of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, was hit by a truck on his motorcycle.

Medvetz needed eight surgeries to save his foot. He had two metal plates and 20 screws used on his cracked skull. He endured a nine-hour surgery as doctors put a titanium cage in his shattered back, plates and screws repaired his knee and more surgery fused a finger.

He was left partially paralyzed and not expected to walk again or fully recover.

When Medvetz woke up on the morning of September 11, 2001, his injuries may have been the second most surprising aspect of his life. Medvetz was more concerned with hospital officials showing a lack of attention to his shredded body.

"I'm looking around thinking, 'I'm in a safe place. I'm alive. I'm in a hospital,'" Medvetz remembers. "There are all these doctors and nurses in a room. I'm trying to get their attention and everyone's looking up."

Someone explained the commotion to Medvetz. Three airplanes crashed into the two World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. Another plane crash-landed in Stonycreek Township, Pa.

"Everyone's starting at the TV. I look up. Boom, the towers are coming down," he says. "Everyone remembers where you were that morning. I'll never forget it."

Within 24 hours, Tim Medvetz's body broke and his country was attacked. No one would have blamed him for giving up on life.

No one except Medvetz. He was in no place to roll over and let time pass. In September 2002, one year after his horrific accident, Medvetz set a goal: He would climb Mount Everest.

In spring 2006, he made his first attempt in a climb covered on the Discovery Channel's "Everest: Beyond the Limit." He failed due to a lack of oxygen 300 feet from the summit.

Of course, Medvetz did not give up. In May 2007, Medvetz topped the world's tallest peak, also documented by "Everest: Beyond the Limit."

The rush of the journey incentivized Medvetz to continue climbing. At the same time, he committed to helping those similar to him.

Medvetz made his focus wounded United States Military veterans. In the summer of 2009, he trekked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with double-leg amputee veteran Neil Duncan. He followed with a trip atop Mount Elbrus in Russia with leg-amputee veteran Keith Deutsch.

As Medvetz reached the summit of Elbrus with Deutsch, he was inspired to take yet another step.

"I took those last 50 steps to the summit and had this moment for the first time in my climbing career where my last thought was about getting to the summit and taking that photo with my arms up," he says. "Watching [Deutsch] take the last 50 steps, it was such a powerful moment. I thought, 'I have to keep doing this.'"

In the fall of 2009, Medvetz founded The Heroes Project. Medvetz's non-profit organization raises funds for him to climb the world's highest mountains with wounded veterans. The founding came eight years after Medvetz was broken in a hospital as his nation was attacked.

The Heroes Project connects two parties: Medvetz, the injured motorcyclist, and the soldiers who went to war after 9/11.

In the past four and a half years, Medvetz has taken soldiers all over the world in all sorts of altitudes. He has taken wounded veterans to Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Vision in Antarctica, Mount Denali in Alaska and Mount Kilimanjaro again.

"I tell these guys, here's the deal," Medvetz says. "I had injuries. I had almost every bone in my body broken. My injuries have no comparison to you guys being in war. But I can relate to you about getting your life back."

In the latest endeavor of The Heroes Project, Medvetz plans a return to Mount Everest.

Medvetz will make the journey with USMC Sgt. Charlie Linville (below). On January 20, 2011, during an IED Sweep in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Linville was blasted into the air by a tertiary explosive device. Linville landed in the blast crater and suffered severe injuries to his right foot and hand.

Early last summer, Linville had surgery to amputate his right foot below the knee. The day before the surgery, he met Tim Medvetz.

"I told him when you're ready, when you get out of the hospital and back on your foot, give me a call. We'll climb a mountain," Medvetz says. "He went into surgery the next morning at 6 a.m. My phone rang at about 11:30 a.m. and it was Charlie. On morphine, just after getting his leg amputated, he said 'I just want you to know I'm your guy.'"

Two months later, Medvetz and Linville started training. On March 27, the duo will begin their 60-day journey up and down Mount Everest.

Although Linville was not originally intended to be Medvetz's Everest mate, Medvetz was impressed by Linville's grit in training. He will need all the support he can get, as Medvetz himself failed his first trip to the top of Everest.

On a lighter note, more than a decade after his initial accident, Medvetz has a TV show. On March 3, Going Wild will debut on Nat Geo WILD.

In the three-part series, Medvetz takes average Americans on outdoor adventures (chump change to Medvetz but challenges to most Americans). Medvetz could not care what sort of occupational stresses or commitments his pupils have. He kidnaps them and gives 'em hell.

"Remember that movie Old School when they pull up in the black van? That's like me, but I'm on a motorcycle," Medvetz says.

Medvetz is naturally intimidating on a motorcycle, and his ability to get back on a motorcycle after nearly losing his life on one shows his mental toughness.

Medvetz's journeys on the program include tests at Mount St. Helens in Washington, the Owyhee Canyon on the Oregon-Nevada-Idaho border and the Moab Desert in Utah. He yanks people out of what he calls "their mediocre lives" and brings them into his dojo.

Medvetz then breaks them, only to build them back up again.

"People don't put themselves through the whole test. People don't know what they're capable of," he says.

Medvetz, who says he is happiest when he is at a place where his cell phone does not work, enjoys watching the individuals on "Going Wild" reach their potential. He watches them find their abilities through outrageous stunts.

It is an unexpected opportunity for a once-partially paralyzed outdoorsman.

"I don't have a headshot. I don't take acting classes. I have no desire to be on TV. It just kind of came across my desk," Medvetz says.

The past 12 and a half years have been a hike for Tim Medvetz, but the experiences have been unique. Medvetz had an adventurous life before his accident as part of Hells Angels, but this is minuscule compared to his post-injuries experiences.

Asked if he could have seen himself interviewing for a national publication before the debut of his television show and a trip atop Mount Everest, Medvetz said: "That'd be a big no."

Medvetz, once a body on life support, is now a reality TV star and elite mountaineer. His body will never be perfect again, but he has sucked all he has been able to out of it.

Medvetz does not want to be put on a pedestal.

"I'm just one proud American doing my part," he says.

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The signing of NBA player, Jason Collins, has the possibility of pushing the taboo against gay players in sports further into the trashcan of past barriers. The Brooklyn Nets signed the openly gay player to a 10-day contract. A 10-day contract doesn't ensure that a player will be on the roster for the rest of the season. It is more like a "look and evaluate" signing.

Defensive end Michael Sam still has to be taken in the NFL draft or signed as a free agent and make a roster. His performance at this weeks' NFL Combine did not enhance his status. But t
he potential for two openly gay players to make rosters in two of the four major sports is another step forward in the move towards tolerance and decency in pro sports.

Players who are on rosters and afraid to be open about their sexuality will be scrutinizing the situation closely. If closeted players feel these first two players are accepted, it will certainly embolden them to add to the number of gay players in the future. If more players "came out," it would dampen the novelty that has news organizations poised to ask teammates and officials how they feel about playing with a gay teammate or coaching such a player. This would undercut the concept of "distraction" as a rationale for reticence to sign gay players.

Collins has the ability to crush stereotypes, as does Sam. Collins plays a sport in which fans can relate more up close and personal to players as opposed to football. Football players are covered from head to toe with uniforms and equipment and it is often hard to see their facial features. This is one reason why, beyond a small group of quarterbacks and Clay Matthews -- few NFL players appear in national ads. Basketball players are closer to the seats with their bodies and faces clearly visible. The prevalence of shoe contracts gives them more opportunities.

As Phil Knight told me years ago as I complained to him about the lack of football shoe deals, "If we sell thousands of pairs of cleated shoes and millions of pairs of basketball shoes, where would you put the majority of advertising money?”

Collins needs to perform dramatically to turn his 10-day contract into a roster spot. If he does, history will be made.

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Let me preface by saying I have covered Northwestern football and Kain Colter for three seasons. I was there when Colter wore an APU wristband in September. I was there when Colter held his initial CAPA press conference.

I have followed the NLRB hearings for the past week, and have seen the case turn into something it is not: A battle between Kain Colter and Northwestern.

The way the arguments must be framed within the judicial terminology has certainly given that impression.

But as was the case in the Paul Newman classic Absence Of Malice, something can be not true and still be accurate.

Colter expected the story to unfold this way, even as he was making the point that the issue was not a gripe against his school.

“This is bigger than Northwestern,” he said at his Jan. 28 press conference announcing the birth of the College Athletics Protection Association (CAPA). "I love Northwestern, and I love my experience. I feel like people are making it me vs. Northwestern, us vs. the institution. It’s not that at all. It's players coming together for a better cause."

Later that day, I wrote about why Colter is the right man to lead the unionization fight for NCAA athletes. I did not say Colter is right to lead a critique of the Northwestern University administration. This is because he is not.

For Colter to gain any legal traction, though, he is forced to make indictments against his university and his football program.

He is forced to say things like, "Everything we do is scheduled around football," and "Football makes it hard to succeed (academically)." He must call out the university for an excessive commitment of 50-60 hours per week during the summer and 40-50 per week during the season. He needs to condemn Northwestern for controlling his class schedule based on practice times.

The university must contest. Legally, it will refuse to admit these factors create such hardships that Northwestern football players can be considered "employees."

Northwestern attorneys must say CAPA's push for unionization is "arbitrary" and "[Northwestern] is first and foremost a premier academic institution." Northwestern can trot out the long list of its athletes who have had successful post-football career. Northwestern needs to describe the tutoring options athletes have at the "world-class institution."

Northwestern is not the model to start the unionization movement. Adam Rittenberg, an NU graduate and Big Ten reporter, put it best:

"The bottom line: It's hard to buy Northwestern as ground zero for this movement. Sure, Wildcats players have to make sacrifices and don't have the same college experiences as many of their classmates. But they also receive tremendous benefits, from the ridiculously expensive education to prime job connections in Chicago and elsewhere. Colter interned at Goldman Sachs last summer."

I have seen football players devouring loaded plates of food after practice and games. I have seen the free Under Armour gear Northwestern players wear. I have seen Northwestern players in both high-level and low-level academic classes (Colter was in my Introduction to Judaism lecture two years ago) and know athletes get early preference in picking classes. I have traveled on the team charter plane as a student radio broadcaster. Life as a Northwestern football player ain't too shabby.

Perhaps the most interesting testimony came last Friday from head football coach Pat Fitzgerald on Feb. 21. Fitzgerald, a two-time National Defensive Player of the Year at NU (1995 and 1996 winner of Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award), was forced to defend his coaching tactics.

Fitzgerald refused to recognize college football as a job, and he insisted football does not get in the way of any particular major at Northwestern.

It is important to remember after Colter wore an APU wristband in September, Fitzgerald said, “I’m fully in support of what he’s doing. I would just like it to be within the team structure. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him as a person, for him as a student and obviously him as a player. I have been pretty steadfast in my comments believing what's best for the student-athletes. I believe in our guys, I believe in what they support."

It is important to remember this is what Fitzgerald tweeted after Colter's Jan. 28 press conference:

I have seen Colter and Fitzgerald embrace. I have listened to Fitzgerald praise Colter as a player, a leader and a student.

Of course Fitzgerald is going to defend the university that pays his bills. As bystanders, we must decide what to believe: the tweet or the testimony.

The same day Fitzgerald made his testimony, Northwestern junior center Brandon Vitabile released a statement to the Chicago Tribune on behalf of the NU players, saying:

“Northwestern University, specifically the athletics department and the football program, has given us every opportunity within their power to succeed, not only on the field, but in the classroom and after graduation. We could not be happier, nor could we ask for more from our staff, coaches, and administrators. They have always acted with our best interests in mind. We firmly believe that Northwestern University is one of the best places in the country to earn an education and compete as an elite athlete.”

Less than a month ago, Colter said an "overwhelming majority" of Northwestern players signed cards supporting CAPA. What should we believe? Colter's uncontested Jan. 28 accusation or Vitabile's scripted statement moments after his coach testified. Pat Fitzgerald just testified against an "overwhelming majority" of his team and no one seems to care. That is because both sides are putting on two faces.

To put it bluntly, the course of the NLRB hearings is bull. Every time a national journalist breaks down the legal side of the hearings, I chuckle. Every time I read an alum lash out against players on a message board, I shake my head. Every time I see a former player blast Colter on Twitter, I sigh.

This is not about Kain Colter vs. Northwestern. Let's not turn it into that. Let's not feed the legal beast.

Less than a month ago, Kain Colter was celebrated by his coach, former and present student-athletes, columnists and fellow students. He talked about giving NCAA football players that "voice" and reiterated his main point since September: to attain an insurance-type fund to use for health reasons after their careers.

Eventually, Colter had to go into a courtroom and give his testimony. The only way for him to get legal change is to attack his university. Every time an article is written about Northwestern not being the "right" place to start the unionization argument, in the simplest way, I think, "Duh." I would not be surprised if Colter thinks the same way.

This is not about Northwestern. This is about Colter and his Northwestern teammates coming together as leaders for an NCAA revolution. Colter is trying to be the catalyst for change across the entire NCAA system. He is the right spokesman for CAPA based on his intelligence, leadership and injury history. Northwestern is not the right example of an unjust football program.

I am perhaps most shocked at the rest of the NCAA's failure to jump on Colter's bandwagon. CAPA's argument will be ignited when another NCAA program or player jumps on Colter's side. Considering CAPA is the strongest organization to sprout in fighting for college players' rights, I scratch my head over the lack of support.

It is no secret players on Georgia and Georgia Tech wore APU wristbands the same September weekend as Colter. Where are these players now?

I can only conclude other programs are waiting on the verdict of the Northwestern hearings to decide how to maneuver their pieces. For those NCAA players who want change, open your eyes: Colter and CAPA are losing ground and need you right now.

At Syracuse, Jim Boeheim is split on Colter and CAPA's motivations. He refuses to accept athletes as "employees," but he doesn't disagree with their motivations to get more benefits. Boeheim openly admits a Syracuse scholarship, which he says is worth about $60,000, does not do an Orange basketball player full justice.

"If they didn't get a scholarship and you paid them and they practice 20 hours a week, you'd have to pay them $100,000 for them to be able to pay $60,000," he said on ESPN's Mike & Mike Show on Feb. 5.

And consider the comments of Jay Bilas, the former Duke basketball player, a practicing lawyer and ESPN analyst.

"I thought it was interesting that the NCAA used the term that the idea of being an employee somehow undermines education because if that were true, there would be a prohibition against all students having a job or being employees of any kind. That's patently absurd," Bilas said on ESPN on Jan. 28 after the CAPA press conference.

Bilas brings up the point of a work-study job. Non-football players, on and off scholarship, are welcome to hold work-study positions in universities to make a profit. Most student-athletes are too busy with sports to take on these positions.

Cashiers are paid wages in the real world. Students who have work-study jobs as cashiers on college campuses receive wages.

Professional football players get paid wages. Football is a legitimate job in the real world. Bilas makes the argument the NCAA should consider treating it like a work-study job at the collegiate level.

We need to stop getting caught up in the Colter-Northwestern situation. Forget the case. Northwestern will likely end up winning the case because it really is a good NCAA program to play football for (if there is any real loser right now, it is Northwestern for having to go through this hassle).

As Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune points out: "A school official said that Northwestern attorneys will not attempt to defend the NCAA and how all football programs conduct their business. They are just defending how Northwestern does it."

Northwestern is not representative of the entire NCAA community and the university makes sure to publicize this.

Stick to the real issues. Collegiate athletes want better conditions in an NCAA system they consider outdated and unfair. In an era of big money TV contracts, big money merchandise, big money ticketing and big money advertising, NCAA athletes want a bite of the pie.

Kain Colter and CAPA are offering a compromise. They are not asking directly for NCAA athlete wages or a cut of merchandise sales. They are asking for a voice in the discussion and an insurance policy.

Colter and CAPA's goal is not to crush Northwestern University. People on the inside know that. They just cannot say it.

We need to recognize it. Then the conversation can move on.

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Even if you don't follow sports, you've probably read about Michael Sam. You've learned how his teammates and coaches at the University of Missouri embraced their star defensive end and protected his secret with tenacity. Your heart might have warmed that fans gave him a standing ovation when he attended at Mizzou basketball game a few nights ago, less than two weeks after Sam announced he is gay.

It was courageous, it was unprecedented, but one thing that nobody's brought up: What happened to Brendon Ayanbadejo's guys?

In April 2013 Ayanbadejo told the Baltimore Sun that as many as four players could conceivably come out simultaneously. Ayanbadejo, an ardent advocate for LGBT rights, followed up on this thought with an appearance on Anderson Cooper's CNN show.

It was big news. The public was intrigued and people were excited to know the trailblazers' identities. But in the end, no one came forward. The players kept to the shadows, and the story fizzled in a news cycle.

"I don't know why it didn't happen," Ayanbadejo says. "Athlete Ally, OutSports, some people in the NFLPA, were in contact with some anonymous gay players, and even I was contacted as well, anonymously, and it was an idea to get them to get together and potentially make a statement."

After Ayanbadejo's statements prompted a media circus, the athletes quietly, and understandably, retreated back into the world of secrecy that’s defined their entire existence.

The hope is, of course, that Michael Sam’s bravery inspires his peers. The reality? That probably won’t happen. Esera Tuaolo, who played nine years in the NFL and retired in 1999, came out in 2002 on HBO's Real Sports. Tuaolo has been in the locker rooms, at the parties, knows the culture, and represents a small fraternity of ex-athletes who have made the decision to come out.

"This is the thing with most of the athlete’s in the [closet]," Tuaolo says. “When you’ve been living with a crippling secret all of your life, and that’s all you protect, and that’s all you think about, somebody 'outing' you -- your life, everything changes. You become the secret."

Tuaolo, who now travels the world lecturing on homophobia in sports, admits that he'd probably still be in the closet had he not adopted kids with his partner. He'd become so accustomed to the "act" that the façade defined him more than the man he loved. It took adopting kids, the responsibility of helping mold another brain, teaching his children how to be their own person, for him to gather that strength.

And the road hasn’t been easy.

"It's just crazy that by telling the damn truth, you can lose it all," says Tuaolo, whose website is "For us, for the LGBT community, the hardest thing is having a relationship with your friends, your family, and just to know that you could lose them by telling the truth about yourself ... that’s hard on us."

He added, “To tell you the truth, the people that I didn’t think would support me, didn't. I’ve lost friendships, I’ve lost so much. Even family ... "

Ayanbadejo and former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe have gained attention during the past year for being straight guys who vocally support the LBGT community. Although the group he attempted to galvanize didn’t come out last year, Ayanbadejo's passionate in his belief that a group of gay NFL players wouldn't just help the sports world, but the planet as a whole.

"It's so much more impactful on society than it is on sport,” Ayanbadejo said. “You’re going to make football safer for 10, 20 guys, potentially, but you’re going to make a difference for [millions] of Americans and beyond in countries like Russia, or Senegal, or Nigeria, where LBGTQ brothers and sisters are being murdered or don’t even have rights at all. So here at home in the United States, you’re going to make such a huge difference, there might be a kid who’s contemplating suicide, or who doesn’t feel good about themselves, and they can go get a Michael Sam jersey, or they can go get a Player X, Y, Z jersey, and feel better about themselves because they want to be a professional athlete, and there’s a professional athlete out there who’s just like [them].”

While the world Ayanbadejo describes is certainly feasible, if there’s one thing that the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito debacle has elucidated, it’s the culture of an NFL locker room. If you’ve played sports, you probably weren't that surprised to hear the nature of the conversations that took place. The words used, the slurs hurled, dumb coaches participating, etc.

But can you imagine being a gay football player in that type of ignorant, backwards environment? Throughout the course of your career -- Pop Warner, high school, college, and now professionally, being called a "fag” if you can’t finish a workout? A “queer” if you can’t shed a block? A “fairy” if you sprain an ankle?

How does that affect your maturation? What kind of man do you become?

At what point do you throw down the barbell and scream out, "I’m gay!”

You don’t. Most likely, you come to hate that part of yourself, and you say nothing…

So to any gay athlete that’s battling with these complex demons, there’s something you need to know: Millions of people are ready to support you.

We know it's the locker room that makes coming out impossible. The downtime at practice, the restaurant after.
It’s easy to play the game. The game is your safe haven. But outside those three hours you spend on the field, your mind spins, and spins. You've thought about coming out so many times before, but never pulled the trigger. The lie is what you know, it’s a part of you. Embroidered in your soul.

You also know the circus that would come from your pronouncement, that things would never be anywhere close to the same.

All we can offer, as a society, is support. Just like the coaches, teammates, and fans at Mizzou gave to Michael Sam.

By "owning your story,” as Ayanbadejo puts it, you influence more than just football, baseball, basketball, hockey. You make the world a little less cold. You educate a new group of people on what being gay means.

It means absolutely nothing. Because the day is coming soon where a person's sexuality won’t be an issue. Michael Sam and whoever walks with him will take the abuse, the hate, deal with the cameras flashing, the reporters screaming, so the next generation can be judged by their character, not whom they love. You have the power to do that.

Yes, you.

And some fans will call you a queer, and loathe you, and never speak your name again. But most will still wear your jersey, and wear it proudly.

Because they respect courage, people who are true to themselves. They love you for who you are, and they know, in the end, you’ve changed the world.

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During the 49ers' NFC divisional playoff game, Colin Kaepernick annoyed Carolina fans by celebrating a touchdown with Cam Newton's signature Superman gesture. But if there were any hard feelings with Newton, the air was cleared by the time the two quarterbacks co-hosted the Cartoon Network Hall of Game Awards this week in Santa Monica.

Kaepernick and Newton had fun with the kids and even took a shot at covering Katy Perry's Roar. Let's just says as singers, they're great quarterbacks. Skip ahead to the 4:00 mark of the video to check out their attempts to hold a tune.

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The two also clowned around by posing for photos, some of which showed them flashing the other's celebration move.

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