INDIANAPOLIS -The cameras - dozens of them - were mounted on tripods long before Michael Sam walked up to the podium. He arrived a little later than expected, heightening the anticipation.
Reporters started to scramble from their work stations when the announcement came:
"Now at Podium C, Missouri defensive end ... Kony Ealy.
There were some groans as most of the reporters headed back to their work areas. Ealy will be a first-round pick and is widely considered the best defensive end in this draft not named Jadeveon Clowney. But he's not the Mizzou defensive end getting all the attention at this NFL Scouting Combine. or anywhere else.
"I'm fine," Ealy said, laughing. "The whole decision with Mike Sam, I mean, he's got his own thing going. I've got my own thing going."
But the thing Sam has going is unprecedented in the history of the NFL. He's on the verge of becoming the league's first openly gay player.
"Good afternoon," he told reporters as he stepped up to the podium, followed by a pack of hand held cameras.
Then came what may have been the first opening statement for a player interview in combine history.
"My name is Michael Sam. I play football for the University of Missouri. As you may know, Missouri is the Show-Me State, and I think I'd have shown you guys enough these last couple weeks.
"But I'm learning with the media. You guys still want more, so ask your questions and I'll answer them the best I can."
He better get used to the attention judging by the size of the media crowd Saturday. It was larger than the throng that greeted Johnny Manziel on Friday, larger than the crowd for Manti Te'o a year ago. Larger than Tim Tebow, Cam Newton - you name it. So in the spirit of the Olympic season, give the gold medal to Sam on that front.
Once the questions started coming, he was nervous at first but then settled in. Wearing a "Stand with Sam" button on his combine workout shirt, he was poised, charming at times, humorous at others, and usually direct with his answers.
"I hope all you guys Stand with Sam by the way," he said, laughing. "Please do. I went to a (Mizzou) basketball game against Tennessee. A very kind lady gave (the button) to me. I gave her a hug and I got a lot of support out there."
Boy, has he. It's been that way in Columbia and elsewhere since Sam came out as gay Feb. 9.
"The positives outweigh the negatives," Sam said. "And I'm kind of surprised actually. There's a lot of supporters. A lot of people want this."
But nothing has approached the scene at Mizzou the past couple of weeks.
"Everything that my Mizzou family has done for me has been amazing," Sam said. "I walk around campus and dozens of students and faculty give me hugs or a kiss, start crying in my arms. It's just unbelievable."
He loved the sight of the large letters "S" and "A" carved out in the snow just in front of the landmark "M" at Faurot Field.
"That was awesome when they drew 'S-A-M,' " he said. "Only at Mizzou. ... I love my fans. I love Mizzou - one of the best schools out there in the nation. After what they did it was just amazing. I wanted to cry but I'm a man.
"I want to thank everyone who's supported me, especially Mizzou. The students, my coaches, the whole organization. And every Missouri fan. M-I-Z, Z-O-U. I'm a Tiger forever."
The support at Mizzou is one thing, but what happens next in the NFL? Will he be fully accepted in the locker room? What about the fans? The front office? Etc.
So far, the public support by NFL coaches, general managers, and team executives has been unwavering since his announcement, and that has continued to be the case at the combine.
Arizona coach Bruce Arians for example, said, "Every locker room I've been in, it's been all about winning. If you had a hand in us winning, and you were different, guys accepted it."
But what about fans, you know, the unruly ones in opposing stadiums?
"That's a very different story," Arians said. "I've walked into stadiums where gentlemen are teaching their sons how to moon the (team) bus, and moms are teaching their daughters what their middle fingers are for - and it's not a ring.
"That scares me more. What's going to be said from the stands. The locker room won't be a problem."
Asked about that, Sam didn't sound worried.
"I've been getting a lot of great positive (feedback) from all kinds of fans," Sam said. "And you know, when I'm on the field I really don't focus on fans. I just focus on my responsibilities, which is the guy right across from me."
Sam was asked how he'd handle a locker room such as Miami's, where racial, ethnic, and homophobic slurs were evident - if not commonplace - according to the recently released Wells report on the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying scandal.
"If the Miami Dolphins drafted me, I would be excited to be a part of that organization," Sam insisted. "I'm not afraid (about) going into that environment. I know how to handle myself. I know how to communicate with my teammates. I know how to communicate with the coaches."
But what if he encountered harassment or hostility in an NFL locker room? Does Sam have a strategy? Would he fight?
"If someone wants to call me a name, I will have a conversation with that guy and hopefully it won't lead to anything else," Sam said.
How would he feel about helping to open the door for other gay players to come out?
"If I did that, it's just great," Sam said. "I just want to do what I love to do, and that's play football."
So he doesn't feel like a trailblazer?
"A trailblazer? I fee like I'm Michael Sam," he said.
Sam, who's projected as a mid-round pick, said he didn't know how his announcement would affect his draft status.
"I am not a GM, I do not have control over my draft status," Sam said. "All I can control is me preparing myself to get the best scores out there."
He was referring to his combine workout, which takes place Monday.
Shortly after Sam's announcement, St. Louis-based sports agent Harold Lewis told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Sam could be a marketing dream and that some day a movie will be made about him.
"I'm not focused on that at all," Sam said, in the most terse response of his 13-minute media sessions.
"I have no endorsements," Sam replied. "I'm just training for the combine, and pro day. I've been working out."
Actually, he does have a deal with five trading card companies, with a public signing scheduled for late March in St. Louis.
Two agents and a publicist representing Sam were on hand Saturday, which raised some eyebrows because agents/publicists are normally not allowed in the interview area.
At one point, Sam was asked if he would rather get asked some football questions.
"Heck yeah," Sam said, laughing. "I wish you guys would just say: 'Hey, Michael Sam. How's football going?' I would love for you to ask me that questions. But it is what it is.
"I just wish you guys would ask me about Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player."
That's probably not going to happen for a while, not since the night of Feb. 9.