McKay Frandsen followed an unconventional path from high school to N.C. State's football team.
The defensive end from central Utah spent a semester at Brigham Young, went on a two-year church mission to Alaska and spent another two seasons at a junior college in Utah.
N.C. State hopes the remainder of Frandsen's path on the football field is more direct, as in straight to the opposing quarterback. Like recent transfers David Akinniyi, Michael Lemon, Leroy Burgess, Natanu Mageo and Shea McKeen, Frandsen is ticketed to be a plug-and-go solution on the Wolfpack's defensive front.
A 23-year-old junior-college transfer, he has enjoyed the journey across the country and to the brink of his major college football season.
"It has been a lot of fun," said the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Frandsen, who's listed as the Wolfpack's starter at left defensive end.
With the loss of Akinniyi, Lemon and Audi Augustin at defensive end from last year's team (the trio combined for 9.5 sacks), there's an opportunity for Frandsen to make an immediate impact.
In two seasons at Snow College in Utah, Frandsen averaged 47.5 tackles and 4.5 sacks and was a junior-college All-American in 2010. He enrolled at N.C. State in January, which was both a head start and a humbling experience.
"We didn't have too many plays at Snow," Frandsen said. "In the spring, everything was thrown at me real fast, and sometimes, I felt overwhelmed."
Frandsen uses "overwhelmed," while his position coach, N.C. State assistant Keith Willis, prefers "struggled."
Willis said he anticipated the complexity of State's defense, where even the ends are asked to drop in pass coverage, would be an adjustment for Frandsen.
But as spring practice progressed, Willis was concerned that Frandsen wasn't making enough progress.
"He struggled early on. In fact he struggled for a long time," Willis said. "I had my questions about him, I'm not afraid to say it, but the kid had a [heck] of a spring game. He widened my eyes."
Frandsen recorded a sack and two tackles for a loss during the spring game, which was dominated by N.C. State's revamped defensive front.
Willis praised Frandsen's offseason work as "phenomenal," and he has been impressed at his willingness to be coached. Willis is not the only one who has noticed Frandsen's progress.
"He's way ahead of where he was in the spring," coach Tom O'Brien said.
O'Brien has had success in finding productive transfers on the defensive front with Akinniyi (from Northeastern), Lemon (Georgia) and McKeen (South Carolina). He said the older players are more mature physically and mentally, which makes them capable of instant contributions.
But there has been nothing instant about Frandsen's route. He took a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints out of high school to Anchorage, Alaska. He returned to his home state and enrolled at BYU for the spring semester in 2008 and was a walk-on for the Cougars. But after going through spring practice, he decided he would be better off playing at the junior-college level.
He spent two seasons at Snow, where recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie found him and offensive tackle Mikel Overgaard. Almost a decade earlier, Petercuskie successfully discovered quarterback Paul Peterson from the same school for Boston College.
In eight months since moving to Raleigh with his wife Kirsti, Frandsen said he's noticed the difference in life in North Carolina.
"The people out here are real friendly," Frandsen said. "It's not like that everywhere."
And Frandsen has made enough stops on his football path to know the difference.
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