As a true freshman in 2007, Drew Frey dislocated his shoulder during preseason practice and missed the entire season.
As a redshirt freshman in 2008, Frey broke his right arm in week four and missed the rest of that year.
Since Frey suffered separate season-ending injuries,
the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility which he will use in
2012. That means the 23-year-old from
Wilmington might be the most experienced active player in college football.
"I think this is spring practice number five for me, so I'm probably setting a record," Drew said with a laugh. "Every single guy that I came in with is long gone now and moving on to bigger and better things, but I feel like I'm just as much a part of the team as the young guys. Age-wise I don't feel older, but I don't know how many guys in the country are working on their fifth spring practice."
I expected Frey to be a bit jaded about going through spring practice drills for the fifth time, but instead, he sounds like a freshman who is trying to make his mark.
"This is the strongest that I've ever been, the heaviest that I've even been, and I don't think that I've lost any speed, so I'm really excited," Frey told me. "You're always working to get better, so this is just another opportunity for me to improve. It's awesome to be with the guys and work to get better every day."
Frey has been a starter at safety for the last three seasons (36 career starts) and earned first team All-Big East honors last year. He also earned Academic All-Big East honors after finishing the winter quarter with a 3.667 GPA in Architectural Engineering. Drew excelled on the field, despite having to miss considerable practice time due to his academic load.
"I loved math and science in high school and I wanted to come to Cincinnati because they had a great engineering program," said Frey. "It's pretty demanding, but it's bearable and as long as I have the support of the coaching staff and they're willing to work with me, it all works out."
"He's seen it all," said head coach Butch Jones. "The sacrifices that he's made with his schooling and the internships - lifting weights on his own and doing the little things - it's been great to have him back this spring on a day-to-day basis. He brings so much to the table for us. I think he's a great resource for a lot of our younger players."
Frey's study of architecture has given him a unique appreciation for 89-year-old Nippert Stadium.
"I'm intrigued by how certain things can stand and withstand the elements and last for 50 or 100 years," said Frey. "It's right in the middle of campus and they've built all of these huge buildings around it, but it's still standing right there as the centerpiece. I'd like to be part of the team that puts an addition on it. I think that's something that is in our near future here at UC and that would be awesome."
But first, Drew is getting ready for his sixth and final season. After losing seniors JK Schaffer, Derek Wolfe, John Hughes, and Wesley Richardson from last year's starting defense, Coach Jones is counting on Frey to be one of the Bearcats leaders this fall.
"He has to be," said Jones. "We've challenged him - along with Walter Stewart, Maalik Bomar, Jordan Stepp, and Dan Giordano - all of those individuals need to step up and they have. They've embraced that role and done a great job to date."
"I want to be one of those guys that the team goes to when we're in a sudden change environment or a backs-against-the-wall environment," said Frey. "Especially in the secondary. We need a guy who is going to step up and take charge and I want to do that."
He's certainly had plenty of training.
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