At 39, Frazier Finds Peace, Health and Happiness
Randy York’s N-Sider
Touchdown Tommie Frazier is 39 now and on the eve of receiving his highest individual honor – becoming a member of the 2013 College Football Hall-of-Fame class Tuesday night at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel – Frazier hit the pause button on the historical significance of that National Football Foundation award. Frazier and his family (wife Andrea, 10-year-old son Tommie Frazier III and 7-year-old daughter Ava) spent Saturday and Sunday exhausting their energy, visiting the 9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center, Times Square, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. They saw Staten Island and Greenwich Village, plus Brooklyn and the Bridge that came with it.
Tuesday may be a big deal for Tommie Frazier Jr., the MVP of Nebraska’s back-to-back national championship teams in 1994 and ’95. But he is focusing more on creating a memory for his own family while representing what he considers his overarching family – Nebraska’s fans, “the best anywhere.” For Frazier, Tuesday is a day worthy of celebration. “Just about everybody who’s had an influence on my personal life and my athletic life will be in New York with me – 20 people overall,” Frazier told me. “That includes family, friends, teammates and coaches. One thing we all learn when we play for Nebraska: You don’t achieve anything without a lot of help, a lot of support and a lot of love. I feel very blessed. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I’m appreciative. This award is not about me. It’s about everyone who supported me on the ride that got me here. I’ve thought a lot about this, and I consider this a team honor every bit as much as an individual honor. In my book, that’s what it is. I’m just a quarterback representing teams that deserve to be called some of the best ever.”
Fans Can Watch Press Conference, Ceremony Live
With that philosophical underpinning, please join the N-Sider’s conversation with Frazier – a lengthy interview we’ve broken up into two parts. Part 1 focuses on Frazier’s life after football and how he’s adjusted to the disappointment of blood clots that created a road block for any dream he had to play professional football. Part 2 covers Frazier's playing experiences. He will join 11 other players and two coaches for a Hall-of-Fame interview session that will be carried live by ESPN3. Tuesday’s press conference begins at 8 a.m. CT and fans can watch it here. The 2013 Hall-of-Fame class interviews will begin at 8:40 a.m. CT. ESNP3 also will provide live coverage of Tuesday night’s 56th annual NFF Annual Awards dinner beginning at 7 p.m. CT. Watch the banquet live here. (Please note that the 2013 Hall-of-Fame Class will be presented beginning at 8:47 p.m. CT and the Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony will follow at 9:21 p.m. CT).
Frazier isn’t the only Husker invited to Tuesday’s hoopla honoring college football’s best. Nebraska offensive guard Spencer Long, a First-Team Academic All-American, also was named an NFF National Scholar-Athlete five weeks ago and is one of 16 recipients of that award. The honorees are in New York as finalists for the 2013 William V. Campbell Trophy, which will recognize one individual as “the best football scholar-athlete in the country.”
Here’s Part 1 of the N-Sider's Hall-of-Fame interview with Tommie Frazier Jr.:
Q: You look good. How do you feel physically, mentally and spiritually?
A: I feel good about where I am in life. I have no worries and count my blessings every day. My health is a lot better. I worried about it for years. It’s still a concern but under control. The people who surround me make me feel blessed. I have a great job as a development officer with Alegent Creighton Health Foundation in Omaha. I’ve worked there three years and love what I’m doing. My wife and two kids are healthy and happy. We live in Southwest Omaha. We all feel blessed.
Q: Your latest health concerns related to Crohn’s Disease, right?
A: I had problems getting the right medications to work. It took time getting to the right levels so I could feel better. I’ve been good for three years, and I was diagnosed in 2002 with Chrohn’s (an ongoing disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive track).
Q: How did that impair trying to live a normal life?
A: Like any athlete, when you leave a situation you felt comfortable with and aren’t part of that anymore, for whatever reason, including physical problems, you’re always trying to find what you can do to make you happy.
Q: Did you find happiness?
A: There were different things in my life that I thought would make me happy, but they didn’t turn out that way. I worked for a major corporation and tried to be a small college coach. I never did feel happy with either one. I never found peace because I didn’t know what I wanted to be and neither experience played to my strengths.
Q: What helped you turn the corner and find a different end zone?
A: When you find yourself going to the office just to be going and not enjoying yourself once you get there, you realize you’re never going to feel comfortable until you prioritize what makes you feel comfortable. My faith and family are the two most important parts of my life. I tried different careers. Some worked; some didn’t. At some point you realize what needs to take precedence and for me, it was faith and family. That’s where your peace is because that’s where your support is. When you have that, everything else falls into place, and that’s what happened for me.
Q: Nebraska fans weren’t happy when you didn’t make the Hall of Fame earlier. Did that make you unhappy?
A: It never bothered me at all because I had my focus in the right place. I didn’t need an immediate spot. With everything I went through while growing up in college, something like that is not going to bother me because I knew it was completely out of my control. People in the Hall of Fame are entitled to their opinions just like I’m entitled to mine. When you’re focused on doing the things that make your family happy, you don’t worry. For me, everything falls in line with my Christian faith.
Q: What makes you feel the most comfortable?
A: Being myself instead of trying to be someone else. When some see you as a “celebrity” you can’t help but try to make those people happy. You don’t want to disappoint them because they say things about you. It took me a long time to figure out that I don’t care what they say. I have to be who I am. I’m not going to do things I don’t believe in just to make someone happy. I had to learn to say no and not worry about the backlash. I’m close to my wife, my in-laws and my parents. They’re my sounding board. They’re the ones who finally convinced me I can’t make everyone happy. I have two priorities: 1) God; and 2) My family. If I stay focused on that, I have no worries. That’s my circle, and it’s that simple. I’m a husband, a father, a son and a son-in-law. Those are all important roles and they take time. The minute I learned that, the more at peace I was.
Q: What triggered the new mindset?
A: I was standoffish, and sometimes I became part of the problem. Once I got my priorities in order, I realized I could live my life the best way I can. I could still do the right things, and that’s what mattered most. My faith is stronger than it’s ever been, and it really all goes back to the blood clots I had when I was playing football at Nebraska.
Q: Can you frame the context for that?
A: Blood clots kept me off the field and kept me from being able to play professional football. The good Lord always gives you what you can handle, and everything that has happened in my life has happened for a reason. I’ve learned that certain challenges teach you how to handle disappointment, which can become hurdles to happiness. You can’t overcome them without putting Him in mind first. I grew up knowing that and got away from it in college when I was going through all my injuries and other problems. Finally, I embraced my faith, and things started falling into place again.
Q: Remember when you called your mom and told her you were heading back to Florida? How'd she respond?
A: Very simple and straightforward. She listened to me describe how homesick I was and why I wanted to come back home. When I told her I was leaving, she stopped me and flat out told me: ‘You can come back to Florida, but you’re not living in this house.’ She reminded me that I made a commitment and I still had the opportunity to go out there and be the man I always thought I could be. She was right. I had to hold up my end. I started to become a man again.
Q: How often do you see or talk to your parents?
A: I talk to both of them two or three times a week. I go to Florida twice a year, and they try to come to Nebraska twice a year. My mom still has a very strong influence on me. She’s the one who told me not to measure success in terms of money. No amount of money can make you happy. You have to be happy with your life, and that’s what I try to communicate to my kids every time I talk with them. I tell them that if you can smile no matter what happens, you’re in a happy place.
Q: What are the roots of your positive approach?
A: Turner Gill and Tom Osborne. Coach Osborne had a tremendous influence on me, just by the way he lived his life. He was very consistent. With him, it was never about whether you win or lose. It was about getting the absolute most out of yourself every day. He wanted every one of us to get the most out of our potential. That’s how I try to live my life every day. I don’t want to go to bed and try to go to sleep, wishing I would have done this or wishing I would have done that. Turner had the same influence. Faith was the motivation for everything he did. He understood football, but his life is about so much more than football. He’s an ideal role model for faith and family. When you have two role models like that and see what they’re doing with their lives, the blueprint was there for me. When things weren’t going so well, I made a decision – get my priorities in order and then live them with the conviction that Coach Osborne and Coach Gill did.
Q: When did you incorporate lessons learned into your life?
A: I’m 39 years old and I didn’t reach my level of peace until I was 33 or 34. Life’s not easy. When I got out of coaching, things started clicking because I learned from my failures. About that time, I made a vow to myself not to compromise my faith or my family. I stopped being what others wanted me to be to make me happy. I started living what makes me happy and what makes God happy. Did I lose friends? Probably, but if I did, then they probably weren’t that close anyway. I feel so blessed and so fortunate, and the honor I will receive tomorrow night is truly humbling because so many others played such a big role in making it a reality.”
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