If you want to know the impact of instant XFL stardom in contemporary terms, here’s Marcell Frazier of the Seattle Dragons on the aftermath of his stunning pick-six on Saturday:
“Dude, I gained like 400 followers on Instragram, like 100 followers on Twitter. I got a ton of friend requests, like 25 requested messages on Instagram, so it was blowing up. All the guys I coached with back in Oregon, they were blowing me up. Everyone who has been part of the journey was hitting me up.”
For Frazier, that journey has been filled with twists and turns, triumphs and setbacks. In many ways, he is the XFL prototype – someone who had a tantalizing sniff of the NFL, is still young enough at 26 to believe that another awaits him, and is doing everything he can to make it happen.
“I’m blessed, and I think everyone’s who’s getting this opportunity – a second or third opportunity – feels very fortunate to have a chance to keep playing and do what they love,” said the defensive end, who snatched a pass out of mid-air at virtual point-blank range and ran 1 yard for the game-changing touchdown against Tampa Bay.
When the fledgling Dragons summoned Frazier for their defense, he was back in his hometown of Portland, working as a coach at his alma mater, David Douglas High School, while providing much-needed mentorship in the community.
Frazier’s last NFL experience had dried up in August of 2018, when the Cleveland Browns cut him in training camp. In the interim, Frazier had gotten his master’s degree in education from Missouri, his collegiate alma mater, and prepared for life after football – without conceding that it was quite time to act on it yet.
“In my head, I was just like, hey, I’ve got to continue to live life, I have to continue to finish my Master’s, I need to continue to create a work base,’’ he said. “But you’d best believe I was working out twice a day, I was still running, I was still hiking, I was still lifting hard.
“I was pretty much killing my body with work, with school and with working out, but I didn’t want this opportunity to come, and miss it. I had to balance living life, but I also had to balance getting strong and staying strong, so when this opportunity came, I didn’t blow it.”
No doubt, similar scenarios played out with almost everyone on the Dragons’ roster. They have 52 players and as many dreams. For Frazier, the path from his high school days in Portland back to the football field in Seattle has rarely gone in a straight line. At one point, he was being recruited “big time” for the University of Washington by defensive coordinator Nick Holt, only to have that dry up when Holt was unceremoniously fired after the Huskies gave up 777 yards of total offense to Robert Griffin III’s Baylor squad in a 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss in 2011.
“We all know with offers and things like that, things change with a blink of an eye,’’ Frazier said.
Frazier eventually committed to Idaho but changed his mind and signed with UNLV in February of 2012. Because of a mixup with a high-school math class, he was declared academically ineligible at UNLV and decided to transfer to a junior college. His first stop was at Iowa Western, in Council Bluffs, but when the playing time wasn’t to his satisfaction, Frazier moved on to College of the Siskiyous in the Northern California metropolis of Weed – population 2,967.
“People were like, what? You play football in Weed? It was no glory, nothing,’’ he said. “It was just for the love of the game. It was just a small town, literally nothing to do, at all, except work out and play football and go hiking, which I love. It really grew my love for the game.”
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Frazier dominated at College of the Siskiyous and was flooded with recruiting offers from Division I schools, including Arkansas and Miami. But Missouri was the first school to contact him, and that combined with their reputation for turning out NFL D-linemen won him over.
At Missouri, Frazier became a standout – 16½ career sacks and second-team All-SEC honors as a senior – and was projected as a fifth- or sixth-round NFL draft choice in 2018. But no one called his name, so Frazier signed as close to home as he could, as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks.
It never clicked for Frazier in his brief time in Seattle, however, and the Seahawks waived him in May after rookie minicamp – in order to create roster room to sign his current Dragons teammate, Keenan Reynolds.
“I was in a different head space,’’ Frazier said. “It was such a long grind. My hat’s off to the guys who are doing that grind right now, prepping for the combine and their pro days. But it’s exhausting. I remember getting to the Seahawks, and my body was kind of wiped out. Being back out there, it’s pretty rejuvenating, just to get your feet back under you and getting your confidence back.”
The Browns quickly signed Frazier, but his playing time was limited by injury and they cut him during the exhibition season. After a couple of practice-squad stints with the Canadian Football League failed to gain traction, Frazier turned his sights on getting his master’s, and giving back to his Southeast Portland community.
“It was awesome going back to the neighborhood, ‘’ he said. “The neighborhood, there’s ups and downs. I think the kids in the community really need positive role models. We’re just trying to change the outcomes for some of the kids.”
It was highly rewarding, and might ultimately be Frazier’s calling – but not before he gets football out of his blood. As he tries to make his name in the XFL, Frazier still dreams of reaching the pinnacle of the sport, which is the NFL.
“I think that’s the goal for probably most of the coaches and most of the players,’’ he said. “We have something to prove. Maybe the coaches feel they need another shot at being a position coach, and a lot of players, we feel we need another shot at playing.
“In the back of my head, we all know football is a very limited opportunity to play. Once you get close to age 30, your body is pretty much all fizzled out. I’m praying I can play as long as I can, but I know I have a solid backup plan.”
The alternative plan — reviving his football career — is going pretty well, too. Marcell Frazier has the social-media cred to prove it.