The nation has taken notice.
Missouri senior defensive end Michael Sam earned nominations for a pair of national awards Thursday - the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player as voted upon by the Football Writers Association of America. Sam is one of five finalists for the award.
Sam is just the second Tiger to be named a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, which was first handed out in 1993. He joins former Mizzou All-American defensive end Justin Smith, who was previously a finalist as a junior in 2000.
Sam will attend the awards banquet Dec. 9 in Charlotte, N.C., where the 2013 recipient will be announced. Other finalists include Michigan State linebacker Darqueze Denard, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
The Rotary Lombardi Award is presented annually to the nation's best defenisve lineman. Sam is one of four finalists for the award.
The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the Wortham Center in Houston. Other finalists include UCLA Anthony Barr, Donald and Mosley.
Sam is in the midst of a monster year for the Tigers. He currently leads the Southeastern Conference in both tackles for loss (16) and quarterback sacks (10.0), and he ranks sixth and seventh in the country, respectively, in those categories.
Sam has amassed three sacks in a game three times this season, and his 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown at Georgia was a key play that helped spark the Tigers to a huge road win Oct. 12. His 10 sacks on the season are just 1.5 shy of the Missouri single season record of 11.5 set by Aldon Smith in 2009.