Some of the greatest players have had to wait decades after becoming eligible to get the call from the College Football Hall of Fame.
Tommie Frazier’s selection Tuesday came in his third year of eligibility, and many believe that still was too long for the player who defined Nebraska’s run of dominance in the mid-90s.
Frazier sounded more relieved than excited when he met with the media in Lincoln, Neb., shortly after the announcement.
“It’s over,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
It wasn’t that Frazier ever complained publicly about not being included in the 2011 and 2012 classes. When he didn’t get in the first year his name was on the ballot, outrage was contained mostly to the ardent Big Red fan base.
When he didn’t get in last year, some members of the national media sounded off about Frazier’s omission being a gross oversight — even though the National College Football Foundation’s Honors Court tries to avoid selecting players from the same school in consecutive years. Nebraska offensive lineman Will Shields was inducted in 2011.
“When you leave things up to a vote, there are subjective opinions,” Frazier said. “I was patient. Patience gets you where you need to be. The fans and media did all my politicking for me. I let everyone else do the talking for me. I knew my time would come.”
Frazier’s center at Nebraska, Aaron Graham, said the wait was outrageous.
“The guy was the best college football player of our era,” Graham said, “and certainly deserving of one of the highest honors you can achieve as a college football player.”
Frazier became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Nebraska, with Tom Osborne going to him in the sixth game of the 1992 season, just a couple months after he arrived from Bradenton, Fla.
He went on to post a 33-3 record that included national championships in 1994-95 after a narrow miss in 1993. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up to Ohio State’s Eddie George in 1995 — another sore spot with Huskers fans.
“My career here at Nebraska, it was a pretty good one,” Frazier said. “There are things I did on the football field that I’m proud of and some things I wish I could have done better, and one of those is to have won a third championship. Two is still good.”
Frazier is the 16th Nebraska player to go into the Hall and first quarterback. He generated 5,476 yards of total offense and accounted for 79 touchdowns as the leader of Osborne’s vaunted triple-option system.
“Tommie was an outstanding competitor,” Osborne said. “He did everything he could to win, and was a good leader by example. He expected a lot out of himself and the people around him.”
Frazier’s low tolerance for mistakes didn’t always endear him to teammates.
“I wasn’t the most-liked guy,” he said. “But I could promise you this: when I stepped on the field I gave 100 percent, and guys fed off that. Leaders don’t need to be liked. Did I tick some of my teammates off? Yes.”
Ahman Green, who became the Green Bay Packers’ career rushing leader after leaving Nebraska, said Frazier had the unwavering support and respect of teammates.
“If he made a mistake, it was his mistake and he owned it,” Green said. “If he made a great play, he commended anyone who helped him. He didn’t take credit when credit was due, and when someone needed to be blamed, he took the blame.”
Frazier ended his career with a Hall of Fame-worthy performance in a 62-24 win over Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. He ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns, including the 75-yard burst in the third quarter that went down as the signature play of his career.
Blood clots that kept him out of seven games his junior season came back in 1996, and he never played a down of professional football. He now is a development officer for a health system in Omaha.
Frazier’s formal induction will be in New York in December.
“Everything I’ve done is because of my teammates,” he said. “I’m taking those guys with me into the Hall of Fame.”