ST. GEORGE — Mitch Frei’s a guy and as such, never gave up on being a star football player. As the author of this story, I can tell you that with absolute certainty. I’m a guy, too. I had the same thoughts, at least until I hit my 40s.
But Mitch Frei, he did something about it. Oh, and he was right. After a circuitous route that included an LDS Mission, junior college basketball, marriage to his college sweetheart, thoughts of joining his dad selling insurance and one very important city rec flag football game, Frei found out that he could indeed still be a star football player.
The Dixie State senior, who caught seven passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night in DSU’s 46-34 loss to Western Oregon, is not your traditional college football star.
“No, I did things a little differently,” he said after the game. “I was playing basketball and hadn’t really considered college football, except maybe in the back of my mind. In fact, I was playing flag football with Rand Willard and some of my other friends and that’s when things changed a little.”
In 2010, Frei, who was a three-sport star at Snow Canyon and graduated in 2006, was on the Dixie State basketball team, where he’d had marginal success, averaging a couple of points a game. Basketball, it seemed, was going nowhere. With Willard, Jordan Wood and other friends, Frei competed on a recreational flag football team and the friends had a lot of fun while dominating their league. One of the opposing teams in this league was put together by Judd Thompson, former QB for the Red Storm, and was stocked with former Dixie State football players.
When Frei’s team chewed up Thompson’s team, the former Dixie football player noticed Frei’s athleticism and good hands.
“We beat them pretty good and he came and talked to me afterward and asked me if I’d considered playing college football,” Frei said. “I was kind of surprised and definitely interested.”
Thompson, who is now the offensive coordinator for the Red Storm, must have done some smooth talking. In no time at all, and after getting the blessing from his wife Cardin, Frei was putting on pads and a helmet — something he hadn’t done in years. Some things had changed in a half-dozen years, including uniform styles and pre-game music. But one thing that hadn’t changed were the keys to being successful.
“Mitch is a tremendous athlete, but more importantly, he’s a leader on this team,” DSU head coach Scott Brumfield said. “He came in at a time when this program really needed it and showed these guys how to do things — how to work, how to be dedicated, how to get better.”
Frei has molded himself into a go-to guy for the Red Storm. His junior year in 2012, he had 34 catches for 495 yards and six TDs. Already in 2013, with still four games remaining, the 25-year old speedster has accumulated 34 catches for 446 yards and four TDs.
“I couldn’t ask for a better offense as a receiver,” he said. “We throw the ball a lot and we’ve got an All-American tight end in Joe Don Duncan. And Griff (Robles) throws the ball really well. It’s a lot of fun.”
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Frei, whose dad Kent and mom Robbin, never miss a game, is using up the last of his college football eligibility this season. As a business major and an academic All-American, Frei will have a lot of choices when he graduates. He may join his dad in selling insurance, certainly a noble profession for a man who hopes to raise a big family someday. But then again, Mitch admits he doesn’t want to close any doors.
“I may have all the football out of my system after this year,” he said. “Who knows? There are other options, like Canada or semi-pro. I’d like to get into coaching as well. And actually, I still have a year of basketball eligibility left.”
Frei went to Snow Canyon the same time as Dixie State star hoopster Dalton Groskreutz, who is a senior for Jon Judkins’ highly rated basketball team. The two have remained close friends since their prep days together.
“Dalton still has another year of football eligibility he could use,” Frei said. “Maybe we’ll trade places and he can play football and I’ll go play basketball.”
Perhaps, but in the meantime, Frei has a football season to finish. And he seems to really be warming up. Though Dixie State lost both games against Western Oregon this year, no one could blame Frei for a lack of trying. He had 17 catches and more than 200 yards as well as three TDs against the Wolves.
As a team, Dixie State racked up 992 yards and 66 points in two contests against WOU. Unfortunately, DSU surrendered 1,076 yards and 97 points to the Wolves.
With all that offense, the games resembled, well, flag football. And Mitch Frei’s pretty good at that, too.
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