Smithfield: Sports

Princeton running back Johnny Frasier motivated by scholarship offers

Princeton junior running back Johnny Frasier pulls away from a diving North Johnston defender during a 2012 game.
Princeton junior running back Johnny Frasier pulls away from a diving North Johnston defender during a 2012 game.

Johnny Frasier’s second try at football has gone better than he could have possibly dreamed. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back from Princeton High School is among the state’s leaders in all-purpose yardage (1,670) and touchdowns scored (17).

He’s garnering plenty of attention and some scholarship offers from Division I schools – North Carolina and Duke so far – but refuses to let that change his drive to be even better.

“He’s taken it the way you’d want any potential Division I athlete to take it. He’s using it to motivate him more,” said Princeton coach Derrick Minor of Frasier. “He wants to prove to them that he’s the real deal. He was on the phone with North Carolina coach (Larry) Fedora a couple of weeks ago, promised him three touchdowns and he went out and got them (in a 42-41 win over Clinton Union).

“He’s not going to let those coaches or anybody else down,” Minor said. “He wants to impress people with his results.”

Frasier’s first experience in football wasn’t one that stuck, playing one year in a Pee Wee league. “I just couldn’t get myself into it,” he recalled.

But just before starting high school, he realized if he had something to do in the fall months (when track and field activity is limited) he’d be less tempted to develop bad habits. Frasier is also a standout sprinter, finishing second in the state in the 100-meter dash last spring (10.74 seconds).

“I had some friends wanting me to play, but I basically decided to try football again to keep myself out of trouble,” Frasier said. “And it was the best decision of my life.”

His role increased as a sophomore but nagging injuries limited his playing time until November. That’s when the Bulldogs, who went 2-8 during the regular season, reeled off three road playoff wins before falling to Plymouth, 42-20, in the 1A eastern regional championship game. It was a run that changed the entire outlook for Frasier and the Princeton program.

Frasier attended summer camps at North Carolina, N.C. State and East Carolina. He was surprised by a scholarship offer from Fedora after his trip to Chapel Hill for an individual player camp.

“Johnny’s work ethic changed after we had some success and he started getting some offers,” said Princeton junior quarterback Michael Wooten. “He’s fast; he’s strong; he’s got a great will to work.”

Most of Frasier’s hardest work comes in the weight room these days, and it’s showing up in his running style.

“After our first couple of games, I realized that if I could get myself in the open field I could really help our team,” Frasier said. “So I’ve done more cutting, using moves to get in the open field than I was before.”

But Frasier has become a more powerful runner as well; one not afraid to deliver blows.

“Last year, he took a few hits and he was banged up,” Minor said. “Thanks to his work in the weight room, he’s running with real power, delivering hits. He’s committed to the weight room and he’s added power running with his overall speed.”

The Bulldogs are 3-3, coming off an open date after a 35-22 loss to state power Warsaw Kenan. They’ll meet two Carolina 1A Conference rivals – North Duplin and Rosewood – which they beat during their 2012 playoff run after dropping the games in the regular season.

Frazier has rushed for 139 yards or more in each of his team’s first six games, including 267-yard night against North Johnston. He has 1,009 yards rushing and 369 yards receiving so far this year.

Minor said Frasier’s added durability has allowed the team to use Frasier in more roles – at receiver, kick returner and on defense at times: “His confidence has increased so much. Last year, he was still trying to figure out what he could do.”

What excites Frasier the most right now is potential, not just in himself, but in what his team can accomplish with a solid finish to the regular season.

“I’ve got an awesome line, an awesome quarterback and awesome teammates,” Frasier said. “If we can click on both sides of the ball, if we can put that game together, I feel horrible for whoever we’re playing that night.”