As a football player in high school, he watched much of the game on the sideline, rotating in every few plays. Nothing spectacular. No recruitment letters.
So what were the chances Jameson Frazier would eventually become a starter and team captain on the BYU football team?
“Let’s put it this way,” said Danny Frazier, Jameson’s father. “If this kid says he wants to go do something (if I was a bettin’ guy), I wouldn’t bet against him.”
Betting against Jameson Frazier may have seemed like the logical thing to do when he first tried out for the then-struggling BYU football team led by former head coach Gary Crowton. After failing to impress coaches, Frazier was cut from the roster — not once, but twice. Instead of giving up on his desire to play college football, Frazier motivated himself to work harder. Because of his work ethic, leadership and diligence he eventually earned his place as a starting linebacker and team captain.
“He’ll continue to play more and more,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I think it’s going to be essential that he play more as hard as [he's] playing.”
Frazier certainly has been essential to the Cougar defense, totaling 34 tackles and two interceptions in 2010. This year he has 15 tackles, assisted one sack and has recovered a forced fumble. However, the road to becoming a starter wasn’t easy for the 6-foot-2 senior.
A Provo native, Frazier grew up with a love of sports. He competed in basketball, football and track at Alta High School in Sandy.
“I was probably better at track than anything else,” Frazier recounted as he gazed over BYU’s practice field. “It was just more my thing.”
His record shows it too. Frazier earned first-team all-state track honors as a senior in high school. Despite his success at leaping over hurdles, Frazier admits he wasn’t as good at football.
But that didn’t change the way he felt about the game.
After graduating high school, Frazier contemplated trying out for BYU’s football team as a walk-on.
“I thought I was pretty athletic and I thought I could do it if I really put my mind to it,” Frazier said as he took off his grass-stained practice jersey.
He sought the input of his father Danny, a former Cougar football letter-winner who played in the late ’70s.
“He asked me if I thought he could,” Danny Frazier said. “And he said, ‘You know, I’d like to give it a shot. I like to play.’ And I said, ‘Don’t give it a shot. You either do it, or you don’t at that level.’ And so he said, ‘Well then, I’m going to do it.’”
Frazier said he knew his dad was only making sure he was going to put his all into it.
After putting in his best effort at tryouts his freshman year, he was cut. His dad takes partial blame for that.
“I’ve never told Jameson this,” laughed Danny Frazier. “When he tried out before his mission, I was actually praying against him. I was! I was hoping he wouldn’t make the team because if he had gotten the chance, the attraction to play college ball might pull him away from his mission. And I just didn’t want that to happen.”
After the end of his freshman year, Frazier left on a mission to Montreal, where he learned three languages: French, Spanish and Haitian Creole.
“When you go on your mission, you come back with this limitless store of optimism,” Frazier said. “So I figured I could do whatever I wanted when I came back from my mission, including play football.”
So he gave football another shot, this time for BYU’s new head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
“What’s the worse they could say, that you’re not a good enough football player?” Frazier said.
And ironically enough that’s what happened.
“He wasn’t good enough,” Mendenhall said. “So we cut him.”
Remember that limitless store of optimism? He still had it.
Even though he wasn’t technically on the team, he was allowed to work out with them. So for two years, he woke up at 6 a.m. to lift weights and build up some muscle. He was allowed to practice with the team the spring following his first year of early-morning lifting. Then he was told he wouldn’t be playing the following season.
He continued working out with the team over the summer so he could try out again in the fall. When fall finally came, he was invited onto the scout team as a wide receiver. After playing the receiving position for some time, the coaching staff decided to move him to outside linebacker.
“They didn’t really like me at wide receiver. And I don’t blame them,” Frazier said, chuckling. “I was more of a run-around and put my head into somebody’s chest sort of player.”
Then things clicked. Frazier was offered a scholarship the following fall and started in nine games last season.
His example of persistence and hard work inspired his teammates, including fellow team captain Travis Uale.
“Coming in as a walk-on myself, and seeing him earn a scholarship, I wanted to know what he did to be able to earn that,” Uale said. “That’s the type of role model he was for me. I’m sure he’s a role model to other guys on the team.”
While Frazier admits getting let down multiple times was discouraging, his example shows he didn’t let it dictate his future.
“In sports, especially at that level, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a scholarship player or a walk-on. If you don’t know how to take disappointment, get up and really keep at something stubbornly, you’re just not going to make it,” Frazier’s father said. “Isn’t that life to a certain extent?”