Tags: Feature Sports Story, Sports
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April 30, 2013 | 01:47 PMSHARON — Sharon native and former Big Foot High School football star Travis Frederick proved all the haters wrong April 25.
The 6-foot-4, 335-pound center was taken No. 31 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the NFL Draft, contrary to what most pundits predicted.
Frederick is the highest-drafted player in area history and the only first-rounder.
The night he was drafted, Frederick's family and friends gathered in the basement of his Sharon home to watch the draft.
Five minutes before the pick was aired on ESPN, Frederick got a call from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett.
Frederick's father, Darrell, said Travis had prepared everyone in case he was taken in the later rounds.
"Travis later told us he thought Dallas would go after him after they traded down," Darrell said. "I wasn't surprised he was taken in the first round. He works hard and goes after his goals. He just went after it. I'm very proud that he stuck with it, and he is going to get his degree."
The former Wisconsin Badger carried on the Bucky tradition of linemen being taken in the first round. This was the third straight year a Badger has been selected among the first 32 picks. Many experts liked Travis, but they thought his 40-yard dash time of 5.56 seconds at the NFL Combine would drop him to the third round or worse.
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But when it came to football skills, especially run blocking and knowledge of the game, Frederick is one of the best linemen in the draft. He was all-Big Ten last year and anchored an offensive line that helped running back Montee Ball break the all-time NCAA touchdown record.
Frederick spoke to Dallas/Fort Worth radio station 105.3 The Fan late Thursday night.
"I didn't really expect to be drafted in the first round, really," Frederick told The Fan. "I thought I was more of a second round kind of guy. The Cowboys, when they traded down, I thought that might be an option for me. They had shown some pretty good interest in me. I knew they needed a little help solidifying up the middle."
Frederick started 31 games at Wisconsin, with 18 coming at center and 13 at left guard. He could replace Phil Costa as the Cowboys' starting center or play either guard position.
"I think I play both (positions) about the same," Frederick said. "With today's NFL rosters being so small, it's definitely helpful to have a guy that can play both."
He said in a recent interview with the Regional News that football skills are more important for an offensive lineman. He said he didn't think his 40-yard dash time was a good barometer for his ability. Frederick was right about his 40 time.
Frederick joins offensive linemen Gabe Carimi and Kevin Zeitler as first-round picks from Wisconsin in the last three years.
Carimi went No. 29 to Chicago in 2011, while Zeitler was taken at No. 27 by Cincinnati last year. Former Wisconsin center Peter Konz, whom Frederick replaced on the line last season, went 55th to Atlanta a year ago as well.
Frederick becomes the first center to be selected in the first round since Florida's Mike Pouncey went No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins in the 2011 draft.
"I think it's going to be a great fit down there in Dallas," Frederick said. "I'm excited for a chance to get down there. I think it's a great team that's just sitting and waiting, and it's going to really jump up here and have a great shot to compete for a Super Bowl championship."
Jones and Garrett said in their phone call to Travis Frederick April 25 they were elated to draft him.
"We're proud to have you," Jones said. "We really wanted to bolster up the center of our line, and you do it for us."
Jones said in recent interviews that Frederick will likely start as a rookie.
Last year's No. 31 overall pick, Doug Martin, signed a deal worth more than $6 million. He earned a signing bonus of $3.376 million, and more than $5 million was guaranteed. ESPN reports that Frederick will eventually sign a four-year deal and will earn slightly more than Martin.
Romo and community support
Frederick will play with starting quarterback and fellow area native Tony Romo, who recently signed a huge contract extension.
Frederick's father, Darrell, said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that he is excited Frederick is playing with another area player.
Frederick's mother, Elizabeth, said the family will have to change its NFL allegiance. "We are very excited," Elizabeth said. "It's awesome. We're actually Chicago Bears' fans, but now we are Dallas Cowboys fans, effective today."
On Sunday, they had a celebration for Travis, with balloons and a "Congrats Travis" sign covering the fence in front of the Sharon home. Darrell said more than 100 people were at the party. He has two brothers, and Elizabeth has four siblings, and they all made it.
"We wanted Travis to see everybody," Darrell said. "It was a nice day, and we had a nice picnic outside."
But Travis' family members weren't the only ones supporting him. Various Walworth businesses, including Dari-Ripple and Golden Years, are sporting signs saying how proud they are of Travis.
Darrell, who is an owner of Austin Pier Service in Walworth, said his cell phone and email has been "blowing up" ever since Thursday. He wouldn't have it any other way.
"The community outpouring has been spectacular," Darrell said. "Travis has fans all over the place. We're very grateful for that."
Travis' coach at Big Foot, Rodney Wedig, said he was surprised Travis was taken in the first round.
"I've got to be honest with you, I didn't think he was going in the first round so I had just gone to bed (Travis' name was called around 11 p.m. Thursday)," he said. "Then my wife got a call from Kelsey (her daughter), and she told us Travis was getting picked, so Tammy went downstairs to record the actual pick and then my phone just lit up with texts. It was very exciting for 11 on a Thursday."
Wedig said everyone in the area is proud to be linked to Travis. He joked that Travis should be honored on the Sharon water tower, much like how the state champion basketball team is honored on the water tower in Hebron, Ill. This is the first player Wedig has coached to make the NFL.
"Being a first-round pick is extremely rare," he said. "I have coached 18 years and this is the first kid I have coached that has even had a chance to play in the NFL let alone be drafted in the first round."
Wedig said this couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.
"I'm very proud of Travis because he does everything the right way," Wedig said. "I hope I helped him develop as much as a player as he made me develop as a coach. As a sophomore I saw his potential and I saw the dedication of some of his classmates, and I told myself and my staff that we had a chance with this group but we need to work as hard as they do to get better. Travis works hard at everything he does and does it well. He is very humble and grateful for everything that has happened. He is very grounded to his roots."
Darrell said Travis is very humble, and all of this new-found attention is different for the Fredericks. Darrell's family has season tickets to the Bears, and his in-laws have season tickets to the Packers. When the Cowboys play Chicago this year, Darrell hesitated when asked if he would root against his Bears.
"I may have to root for the Cowboys this time," he joked.
Darrell said Travis, who leaves for training with the Cowboys in late May, has plenty of goals for the future.
"I want him to reach his goals and be successful," Darrell said. "It is rewarding to see my sons succeed."