If Eli Frazier and his family could do things over again, the Nixa linebacker’s breakout senior season this fall would instead be his breakout junior season.
While some of Frazier’s senior classmates have already celebrated their 18th birthday, he’s actually still closer to his 17th birthday than his 18th. He’ll be one of the youngest members of Nixa’s graduating Class of 2024.
Frazier was born in June. Families with a child with a summer birthday sometimes lean toward having him or her start kindergarten with younger classmates rather than older classmates.
“I don't turn 18 until after my senior year ends,” Frazier said. “My Dad always apologizes to me because he started me in school (rather than hold me back). We’re thinking, if I had another year of high school, how much better I could be.”
Growing up, Frazier found himself in catch-up in regard to his physical maturity. Some of his classmates are nine months older than he is.
“I was always down on myself because I felt I was smaller than everyone else,” he said.
Through hard work and resilience, Frazier is now more than holding his own on the gridiron and the weight room. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder enters Friday's Class 6 District 5 final versus Joplin leading Nixa with 127 tackles. He has 75 solo stops and five TFLs.
Frazier was dominant against Ozark last week, collecting 10 solo stops among his 16 tackles.
All this after he had a mere 11 tackles a year ago. He was a junior primarily playing jayvee ball, doing his best to stay patient.
“The last couple of years, I always wanted to get a shot at varsity linebacker. But I never really got the chance because I had seniors in front of me,” Frazier said. “I got a few snaps in last year. But this year has been the year I've been looking forward to coming into this year, I worked hard and have made the most of every opportunity.”
Frazier has made a point to let underclassmen, in a similar backup role he endured, to keep pushing forward and take advantage of the benefits of jayvee ball and varsity practices.
“There have been a couple sophomores and juniors playing jayvee this year who have talked to me about how mad they are because they aren't getting varsity reps,” Frazier said. “I tell them I was jayvee for my sophomore and junior years, so they should keep working hard and make the most of every opportunity they get.”
“Jayvee football is an opportunity to get reps and play,” coach John Perry said. “Eli had a ton of reps playing jayvee football and had a fantastic season last year. He just so happened to have guys who were older in front of him.”
Frazier was seeing playing time as a junior as Nixa’s long-snapper for punt, PATs and field goals.
His older brother, Isaac, is a 2022 Nixa grad and was also a long-snapper for the Eagles.
“I would always practice long-snapping with him in our front yard,” Eli said. “We would long-snap back and forth to each other.”
Frazier has repeatedly responded well to the mostly thankless demands of long-snapping and the pressure of the position.
“It's a high-intensity, high-pressure moment when it’s fourth down,” he said. “Whether you're on the 50-yard line or the goal line, there's that thought in your head, 'Is it going to go over the (punter) or is it going to be a good snap?’ You have to be confident in yourself.”
Looking ahead, Perry thinks once the word gets out of Frazier’s long-snapping prowess, he could join classmates and teammates Jayden Antonelli and Spencer Ward as an NCAA D-I prospect. Perry knows long-snappers are at a premium and coaches value having a good one.
“I've had some good ones in the past and had one who was a walk-on at Alabama,” Perry said. "Eli is as good as any of them. He's fantastic long-snapping. He'll have a chance to play college football.
“I can remember maybe one bad snap by him in two years,” Perry added. “I don't even worry about him long-snapping. For some strange reason, I did worry about it (last) week because I started worrying about next year's long snapper. I know who it’s going to be and I've got to start spending more time with him because Eli has spoiled me.”