Tags: Feature Sports Story, Sports
Frederick was salutatorian of his 2008 class at Big Foot. (click for larger version)
April 23, 2013 | 04:40 PMMADISON — This weekend, Sharon native and former Big Foot star Travis Frederick's life will change forever.
The 6-4, 335-pound former Wisconsin Badger could very well become the highest-drafted area player of all time.
In fact, Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Scott Wedige, a 2007 Elkhorn High School graduate, and Burlington's Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback, are the only current area players in the NFL.
But Frederick, 22, is a different breed. The powerhouse offensive lineman is pretty much a sure thing to be drafted and is a top-75 pick, according to NFL.com. Wedige and Romo were both undrafted.
On Sunday, just four days before Thursday's NFL Draft, which is April 25 through 27 in New York City, Frederick said he is excited for the process.
"It's a special feeling," he told the Regional News in a phone interview Sunday night.
"I'm excited to put Big Foot on the map. Not a lot of people get to play a game for a profession. It's a tremendous opportunity."
Frederick is one of the most decorated athletes in area history. He played in the last three Rose Bowls for the Badgers and was an all-Big Ten selection and a Pro Football Weekly All-American in 2012. A 2008 Big Foot graduate, Frederick helped lead the Chiefs to a 2008 state runner-up finish. He was all-state as a senior on both sides of the line.
As a freshman at Wisconsin in 2009, Frederick became the first center to start as a true freshman in 20 years. He played both center and guard in his Badger career and helped anchor one of the strongest rushing programs in the nation.
Somewhat of a whiz kid, Frederick was salutatorian of his high school class. That academic acumen carried over to Wisconsin, where he double-majored in computer science and computer engineering. Despite declaring for the NFL Draft in January, Frederick is still in Madison finishing up his education. He will graduate with a computer engineering degree in May.
"I've had a great opportunity to take advantage of a great education," Frederick said.
Frederick plans to spend this weekend with his girlfriend, parents and brothers back home, a place he hasn't seen much of with his growing fame and NFL exposure. And there have definitely been a few bumps along the way.
Criticism at combine
Since January, Frederick has trained in California near his agency and back in Madison. On Feb. 23, he took part in the NFL Combine, a five-day event where he ran a 40-yard dash, did a bench press and other lifts, and went through stringent physical and mental evaluations.
"It was a very interesting experience," Frederick said. "There's kind of an untold story. Everyone talks about the numbers, but it's more about the medical aspect. You see every team doctor and go through a lot of interviews. One day was devoted entirely to physicals. I did well in the interviews and had a clean medical slate. That's important for me."
While Frederick said he did fine in the drills, he ran a noticeably slow time in the 40-yard dash. He clocked in at 5.56 seconds. The last center to be drafted that ran slower than Frederick's time was Mike Devlin in 1993. NFL scouts, who aren't afraid to speak their mind, tore Frederick apart.
"His feet are so slow," said an AFC personnel man. "He's beginning to scare me the more I watch him ... There's no way he goes first round now."
While other scouts criticized Frederick's speed, one scout said he "might be the smartest guy in the draft." Frederick scored a 34 out of 50 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Another AFC personnel director was high on Frederick.
"His workouts were horrible, but I just don't think it's that big of deal," he said. "He's talented. He's going to start and be a good pro."
Frederick acknowledged his 40 time wasn't great, but he still is confident about his draft status.
"I don't think a 40 is a tremendous measure of talent," Frederick said. "I have enough athletic ability to get things done. The 40-yard dash isn't a good barometer for O-linemen. It's more about how you play the game. For some guys, it's more important."
Ten days after the NFL Combine at UW's pro day, Frederick chose not to run another 40 and did only football drills. It's football drills where Frederick excels.
"My ability to run block is very good," he said. "Also, my strength is being the anchor on a bull rush (a blitz up the middle). I can stop guys who have a head of steam."
Dream come true
Frederick said the NFL has always been a dream of his. In 2008, when he earned a scholarship to play at Wisconsin, he said he really had to fight for it and was content. But after a few years of playing well and seeing fellow linemen Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Bill Nagy make the NFL, Frederick thought, "Why not me?" Six Wisconsin offensive linemen have been drafted in the last five years.
"I didn't necessarily see it as possible at first," Frederick said. "After a couple years, I saw my teammates get drafted and thought it was a possibility. My sophomore year alone, three teammates were drafted. I saw guys I thought had the same ability go to the NFL."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ranked Frederick as the No. 1 center in the draft. Most media outlets have him going in the second or third round, but one scout said he's a first-rounder and CBS Sports has Frederick going to the Green Bay Packers in the first round at 26th overall. Frederick, whose favorite team is the Chicago Bears, would likely take some time to warm up to the Packers.
In these final days before the draft, Frederick can't have contact with any NFL teams. He looks forward to sharing the moment with his family this weekend. Basically, he can't wait to see his lifelong dream come true.
"I'm excited to go through it," he said. "I just want an opportunity to make the team. I want to get in there and work with great NFL talents and improve my skills."