Frederick ready to fight for starting job

Travis Frederick

IRVING, Tex. - As can be expected for any player chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft, former Wisconsin center Travis Frederick boasts a lot of attributes that make members of the Dallas Cowboys' front office and coaching staff think he has a chance to be successful as a professional player.

He's big, he's strong and he comes from a program that has produced loads of gifted offensive linemen. The night he was drafted, head coach Jason Garrett raved about Frederick's intelligence, toughness and his ability to play multiple positions (center or either guard spot).

But it's quite possible that the trait that will help him the most in his effort to get on the field as a rookie and make an early impact on his new team is his attitude. Frederick is a tough guy who likes to mix it up with opponents and physically impose his will on them.

That attitude showed through Friday after his first workout with the Cowboys. Like any rookie, he was excited to be past the draft process and on the field with his new coaches and teammates, but he also was disappointed.

"It was great to be out there," Frederick said, "but we weren't really hitting people. That's what I like to do. We hit each other some, but we weren't in pads. You understand why it's done that way — we're learning the offense — but it's not the same."

Frederick's on-the-field demeanor is well documented. In the weeks and months leading up to the draft, he was described as "tough" and "mean" as much as he was hailed for his technique or intelligence. That side of his personality, Frederick said, is nothing new.

"When I was younger, I had a little bit of a temper issue," he said, laughing. "I tried to get over that, but I had coaches who taught me how to flip that over and how to let that help me.

"I was like that when I played baseball — sometimes I threw at people. If I was pitching and they were a little close to the plate … I wasn't the best pitcher, but I played baseball that way, too."

There's no question the Cowboys need an upgrade on the offensive line. Left tackle Tyron Smith might be an anchor of the line for the next decade or so, but right tackle Doug Free might slide inside to guard or be asked to take a pay cut in order to retain his roster spot. Tackle Jeremy Parnell has the size and athletic ability to succeed, but he also is a former college basketball player still proving himself on the field. Guards Nate Linings and Mackenzy Bernadeau were signed before the 2012 season, and have some ability, but the line lacks the snarl many teams want from the big guys up front. Frederick might not have Smith's rare physical gifts, but if the team is looking for a player on the north side of 300 pounds who can lead his team in to a street fight, Frederick — who talked Friday about looking forward to the chance to "legally beat someone up" — might well be that man.

"For me, it's just about going out and playing the way I played in college, and the way that I know that I can play, and taking advantage of the great coaching. Like I said, (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan is a tremendous coach, and I think he can make me a lot better player than I have been."

Frederick said things that the media soaked up about punishing defenders and clearing running lanes, but on a more serious note, the center usually is expected to be the leader, almost the captain, of the offensive line. Frederick said that he expects to fill that role, but he has to earn the right to do so.

"I think there's a process that goes into it," he said. "I have to establish myself. I need to establish myself as a worker, as someone the guys can trust, somebone that they believe in in the weight room and someone they believe in on the practice field. After that, I think that things start to fall in to place as far as leadership."

Frederick — who weighed in at 317 pounds and said anywhere between 315 nd 320 pounds would be "a good spot for me" — acknowledged that, as Garrett said the night the Cowboys picked him, he could play center or guard, but for now, he's starting out in the middle of the line.

"I actually really only played center today," he said. "I played a little bit of guard, in individual reps, but I feel comfortable playing both. I spent a lot of time studying center — I knew I was going to take a lot of reps, today especially and probably throughout the weekend. There's a ton of calls that go into that, I wanted to make sure I get those calls down and absorb as much as I could in the quick amount of time that I'm going to be here."

While his intelligence and study habits should allow him to learn the offense, and his status as the team's top pick might create expectations that he could step in and play immediately, Frederick said he doesn't expect to start without earning that chance first.

"I feel like it's a fight (for the starting job)," he said. "I don't believe that anybody on the starting line is going to just say, ‘oh, they drafted this guy — he should be the guy.' It's not going to be that way. I'm going to have to fight for it and prove to them I'm the best guy for it."

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