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For Love of the Game

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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From his freshman year forward, Ty Frix quietly became a mainstay at Georgia.

You probably haven't noticed Georgia's Ty Frix the last few years. Even though he played in 54 consecutive games from his freshman to senior seasons, you may not even know who he is. Frix, both figuratively and literally, is of a unique breed. He had a hand in points scored, though never his name in postgame discussions. He sat atop a depth chart position, though, on gamedays, mostly on the bench. A player who came to Athens without a network recruiting profile or even a college scholarship, Frix routinely held Saturday afternoon outcomes right between his legs.      

An ally and friend of kickers and punters everywhere, Frix, blandly-enough, is a long-snapper. Furthermore, he's the type of guy who practices and pushes without end, hoping that one day you get the chance take him for granted. If you know him, it's a problem. If you don't, he's done his damn job. Save your sharpies, Frix is a football player in the purest sense.

A three-sport athlete from Calhoun, Georgia, Frix followed in footsteps that long ago spread wide and settled about three feet apart. His dad, Mitch, was a long-snapper for the Bulldogs in the early 1980s. He won two SEC Championships and worked with former UGA All-American kicker Kevin Butler. Ty, years later, would team with Georgia's All-American punter Drew Butler, Kevin's son.  

Though the special craft was ultimately passed down from father to son, Ty's introduction wasn't necessarily by choice. Try natural selection, instead.

"I was a little tiny kid and my dad knew I wasn't going to be able to play. So he took me out in the yard and said, 'son, I’m going to teach you something that might get you on the field some this year'. And then he taught me how to snap," Frix recalled on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. "I walked out to practice the first day and they asked if anybody knew how to snap and I was the only one who raised my hand. I was kind of the long snapper by default at that point."

From that day forward, with a start snippety but suggestive, Frix had found a home. There, he also had direction. His father was an expert at his trade, patiently offering insight into what must be done both mentally and physically to find success. Mitch knew long-snapping and he knew his son. He showed Ty how to aim, how to grip the football, how to stand. Most importantly, he showed his son how to work.

"The biggest thing about my dad is he is the best role model anyone could ever ask for. He was the first one in my family that went to college. He grew up on a farm and my granddad was basically a share cropper. So my granddad worked his whole life to be able to put my dad through college. He is the hardest worker I've ever been around. He had some things goes right for him and he took advantage of them when the opportunities came. And what was so awesome about that is he taught me how to do the same thing," Frix acknowledged.

Even as his skills heightened, Frix did not see himself playing college football. Fortunately for him, someone else did.

"I did it all through high school and honestly never in a million years thought I would be able to do it in college. That is where dad came back in. He knew a guy, who knew a guy who looked at me and told me that he thought I could snap in the SEC," he remembered. "I ended up coming to a UGA camp and got in front of one of the coaches and snapped and they gave me a preferable walk-on spot."

For all of his memories that continue to run together, that one, for Frix, stands out. Like father, the son undoubtedly wanted to be. Beyond that, however, he had a deep passion for Georgia football and all of the pomp and circumstance that comes with. In a matter of days, Frix saw a dream suddenly come to life. He also saw the sacrifices that were made so that his opportunity could be pursued.  

"I still remember that day, it was one of the best days of my life. I had always wanted to go to Georgia and I had actually decided I was going to go regardless of whether I was playing a sport or not because I was that big of a Bulldog," Frix admitted. "I think I had all of that kind of given to me because of my dad and everything that he did and accomplished. Growing up I couldn't think of a better thing to do than follow in his footsteps."

After a redshirt season, Frix was shoved right into the same spotlight his father did such a great job of avoiding. As a freshman in 2009, he handled all snapping duties for a team that debuted with a road trip to Oklahoma State, then played South Carolina, at Arkansas, Arizona State, LSU and at Tennessee in consecutive games. On the fly, Frix was introduced to big-time college football. He formed his frame of reference while dealing with as much pressure as anyone on the field.  

"If you miss a kick, people are going to tell you that you stink. If you miss a snap, you will lose your job," Frix explained. "There are a lot of people out there that can snap a football. In my opinion, if you can throw a football you can snap a football. The only difference is one is between your legs and the other is over your shoulder. From that point on it is really completely mental."

In sport fueled by momentum, specialists have to stay even-keeled. In stadiums with 100,000 people and on sidelines that are extremely emotionally-charged, snappers must insulate themselves from the chaos. Regardless of score or stage, focus is the biggest key. The fundamentals, once established by repetition, never change. The mindset can't either.    

"It all goes into that preparation," Frix detailed. My dad told me 'consistency, thou art a jewel' and his coaches also told him that. That is what it really comes down to, you just have to do it over and over again until you are so consistent you can do it in your sleep. And when you get to that point, you can snap in the SEC."

From his freshman year forward, Frix quietly became a mainstay at Georgia. Milestones came with each season. As a sophomore, the former walk-on was awarded a football scholarship. As a junior, Frix earned some box score banter; he made a tackle against top-ranked LSU in the SEC Championship Game. His final season, Frix was fittingly selected as special teams captain for a Bulldog team that won a dozen games. 

Despite his his progression, Frix never allowed himself to get totally comfortable at his position. There was simply too much on the line.

"I think the longer I was at UGA the more butterflies I got. The longer I was there I really started to realize how much it meant to be a Georgia Bulldog and represent the entire Georgia Nation on the field on Saturdays," Frix reflected. "I wanted to do everything I could to represent what we stand for, and that gets to you. Anyone can go snap a football 15 yards when nothing is on the line, but when you have 124 other guys that have worked their entire lives to be in the position that they are in and sometimes that rests on you, it’s a big burden to carry."

Even with such responsibility, Frix found joy in all that he did. After all, the pride that came with the patch defined him. Each and every weekend, the Peach State product was was in the same spot and stance; down in the dirt, hovering over a football that gave others much more fame and praise. A few times each game, assuming he performed as he should, the game he loves would throw the old dog a bone.  

"I was nervous every snap and if I told you anything else it would be a lie. But you just have to get to a point when you run on the field, shut that nervousness out and channel it into a perfect snap. And then the greatest thing about that is once you channel it into a perfect snap, you get to play football for about five seconds. That is what I love more than anything," he smiled.

As an alum, Frix is excited to watch his Bulldogs compete for a national championship. He calls those players his brothers and still feels a deep bond with them that, ironically, peaked after a conference championship loss to Alabama. In the form of his younger sibling, those sentiments have become exaggerated even more. Trent, who will soon be the third Frix to snap at Georgia, is set to begin his UGA career after playing outside linebacker at the Air Force Academy. According to Ty, Trent will prove to be worth the wait.

"He is the best one of all of us. I think if he really works hard he may be able to do some other things at Georgia, other than long snapping. Obviously it was awesome to learn that Trent would be going to Georgia and kind of doing what I did. Not because he is following in our footsteps, but because Georgia, in my opinion, is one of the best places in the world," Frix continued. "You can tell people what it's like to walk out on the field on a Saturday but they will never understand until they actually do it. And I’m just completely thrilled that my brother is going to have that opportunity. It’s a brotherhood and there’s no place like it."

Frix, in review, is a family legacy. He finished his career as a four-year starter. Twice, he won an SEC Eastern Division title. He snapped for kicker Blair Walsh and Butler, both of whom have gone on to stellar NFL careers. Five times, Frix was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. He was chosen as football's scholar-athlete for 2010, named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team twice and was inducted into UGA's Student-Athlete Leadership Academy last fall. He earned an undergraduate degree in biological engineering.

Though unheralded because of his position, Frix is as newsworthy an ambassador for Georgia football as you will find. 

Perhaps, in the hustle and bustle, you didn't really see him. Maybe, you never knew what exactly he did. To Frix and his family, such anonymity serves as validation, widespread. Who watched him never really mattered. With a perspective fixed backwards and upside down, Frix had a great view of who and what he did it all for.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports