Texas A&M junior Austin Frey stands 6-foot-1, weighs 225 pounds and, by his own admission, is not a speed demon.
But he has taken great strides during his brief football career to get bigger, stronger and faster, which is why he believes playing in the NFL is not that far-fetched despite never having played a down, other than on special teams, while at A&M.
"God made me good at [deep snapping] for a reason, and I wouldn't want to put it away," Frey said. "It's definitely something I feel I have the ability to do having played here at Texas A&M under a great special teams coordinator (Jeff Banks). I feel like I have the size, maybe get a little bit bigger, but it's something I feel like I can do. I definitely believe in myself in being perfect in my long snaps."
Frey began playing football at the 6-man level at Tomball Christian, a home school team, under the tutelage of his father Jack.
"I was center, which is kind of like a tight end position, and we'd go in the shotgun, and that is about 10 to 12 yards in 6-man, so I got a lot of snaps each game," said Frey, who scored 15 touchdowns for the Warriors one season. "So I got a lot of practice at what I'm doing right now, where as this past weekend I had only four [snaps] on punts."
Tomball Christian moved up to 11-man for Frey's senior season, and he showed some of his athleticism, versatility and toughness by starting at tight end, moving to quarterback after the starter went down with an injury, the moving to fullback after breaking his arm.
To continue his career, though, Frey knew his best bet was at deep snapper, something he says his father, an All-America lineman at West Point, recognized during his sophomore season.
"He said do this thing and see what happens, so in high school I started long snapping, and I did it every day, about 100 balls every day," said Frey, the nation's fourth-ranked deep snapper in his recruiting class. "I had a 2-by-2 target that I'd try to hit, and I'd finish making five perfect snaps at the end of those 100 snaps before I could leave. Sometimes it would get a little frustrating, and I would get tired if I wasn't hitting it that day, but every single time I would end with five to end on a good note."
That persistence gained the attention of A&M's coaches during the recruiting process, and former Aggie punter Drew Kaser also urged the staff to recruit Frey. Originally Frey thought he would walk on at TCU or Florida, but he had strong ties to A&M. His grandfather Richard Frey played for A&M in the 1950s, and the family had been bringing grandson Austin on the short trek to Kyle Field for Aggie games since he was 6 years old.
Frey decided to attend an A&M practice, talked to Banks and committed an hour later.
"I never thought I'd wear the maroon and white across my chest that says Texas A&M with Frey on the back and then actually be able to play," Frey said. "I still can't believe to this day that I'm able to do that."
After snapping for field goals and punts as a freshman and punts as a sophomore, Frey has added to his dream list of accomplishments: receiving a football scholarship. He learned of that one the week before A&M's season opener.
"About an hour ago I went to get my books for free for the first time ever," Frey said Tuesday at A&M's weekly press conference, "and to have all these first times of taking things off my parents, not having to work a little bit extra, have some spending money, things like that is just a tremendous honor. If you told me this in high school I would never had believed you. It's so weird every single day that I'm able to live it."
Frey celebrated earning a scholarship by going out to dinner with A&M's special teams players, a group happy to join in because they knew he had earned it.
"Austin has worked hard since the day he got here," said junior Cullen Gillaspia, A&M's current 12th Man who earned his scholarship before the 2016 season opener. "He's my 45 buddy. We both wore No. 45 before I became No. 12, and seeing him get a scholarship, all the hard work he's put in, it's much deserved, much earned, and I couldn't be happier for him."
NOTES -- Frey's defensive coordinator at Tomball Christian was Steve Watkins, a member of A&M's 12th Man kickoff team in 1983. Jack Foote, a quarterback for the Houston Oilers in the mid-1970s, served as the Warriors' offensive coordinator. ... Frey broke his foot in practice before the Arkansas game during his freshman season, then suffered a concussion against Ole Miss last year. ... Frey made three tackles last season, including two in A&M's 31-24 overtime win over UCLA. "[The Bruins] knew I was able to do something, so they had me guarded up pretty good this last game," Frey said of the Aggies' 45-44 loss to UCLA on Sunday. "It's definitely the best part, because a lot of times I get a free release. It's the best part to make an impact."