In sports, players come and players go. In my 15 years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders there have been literally hundreds, almost thousands, go through the doors at Taylor Field/Mosaic Stadium. Some of them would become just names in the fact book while others left a lasting footprint on the franchise. One of those is Lance Frazier.
Frazier was a defensive back with the West Virginia Mountaineers before a brief NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. He even would become a starting cornerback for the Cowboys in the early- to mid-2000s. But somehow or another he found his way up to Saskatchewan in 2006 and it would become a life-changing experience for him.
From America’s Team to Canada’s Team!
A great-looking guy who was always dressed to the nines, Frazier wore #15 and immediately took up a starting spot in Richie Hall’s defensive secondary. He and Eddie Davis locked down inside receivers across the CFL on the way to a Grey Cup championship in 2007. Once Eddie retired, he passed the leader’s torch onto Lance and he helped carry this team into two more Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010. It was the greatest era of Roughrider football.
However in 2012 training camp Frazier was deemed expendable by new Rider coach Corey Chamblin and was one of the last cuts coming out of camp. Just like that, his career was over.
“I saw it coming,” Frazier revealed. “Maybe two or three days in I started telling guys I’m not gonna be here.”
There really was no explanation as to why Frazier was set loose other than that Chamblin wanted to go in a new direction. We’ve seen it before; a brand new coach wants to make his mark by cutting loose a long-time veteran. Don Mathews did it with Richie Hall 20 years ago with the Riders.
“I think it had a little bit to do with that,” Frazier admitted. “Corey came in with the attitude of any first year coach. He was gonna shake things up and find out who was gonna make up his team. Unfortunately I didn’t figure into that.”
But there were no hard feelings from Frazier. He never really looked into joining another CFL team and after coming to grips with the fact his Hall of Fame career was over, he began to look at other opportunities. He was also grateful to be a part of the greatest era of the franchise.
“No question,” Frazier smiled. “I’m so happy to be a part of that. Tons and tons of great memories and stories were created during that time and also to get a sense of what football means to this community. It’s probably the closest organization between the team and the fans that there is. Just to hear the stories of how this franchise almost folded and then to be a part of the turnaround was very exciting.”
And Frazier is still in the community, albeit somewhat reluctantly. It’s been a harsh winter so far and Lance might be wondering what he’s gotten himself into.
“This is my first year doing this (living in Regina) and I didn’t want to be one of those guys who bolted out right away (after his football career). I have a couple job opportunities I’m taking advantage of. Everybody back home thinks I’m nuts and some of my old teammates do too but it’s true; it’s freezing in Regina in the winter!”
In a trend started by current Rider defensive back Chris McKenzie, Frazier is working in the oilpatch in southeastern Saskatchewan. And it’s not easy.
“I’m working for an oil company and C-Mack got me involved with it.” Frazier explained. “I’m actually rigging. It’s pretty good money but it’s tough work. It’s not something I ever envisioned I’d be doing but it’s kind of like being in the locker room again. You have a crew that you stick with and if you screw up, it can be real bad! It’s a lot of communication and a lot of labour. My co-workers ask me all the time ‘what are you doing out here man?’ and I say ‘hey football players work hard! This is easy!’
“But there are dangers like the gases we work around and you can pinch your hand off connecting a pipe. It’s been an eye-opening situation for me but like I say, it pays the bills. But more than anything it allows me to be a part of this great community where I spent the past seven years.”
Frazier told me years ago he’d like to get into football management and frankly he’d be ideal for it. Clearly he knows the game, has tons of connections in college and pro, and he’s oozing charm. The idea is still on his radar.
“It still is and right now this oil thing is a pitstop,” Frazier advised. “Hopefully my time here will open some doors. (Rider GM) Brendan Taman knows my aspirations and I’m open to doing something with this club. I’d like to do something in broadcasting as well. It’s something I’ve been told by local reporters that I should get into. I did a stint with Global in the playoffs and I’d like to look into it in the future.”
We asked Lance to put his analyst’s hat on and examine the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders and what their needs are as Saskatchewan prepares to host the Grey Cup this November.
“They need a strong defensive end and some ballhawks in the defensive backfield,” Frazier feels. “DE Marcus Howard in Edmonton is a solid player but he’s re-signed. Jason Vegas in Winnipeg is a guy who’s been brought to my attention. He’s had a seven- and a five-sack season. He’s a young guy with a lot of energy. We need youth and consistency. Odell Willis played well in spurts and Brent Hawkins, he just can’t seem to stay healthy. You need to get pressure on the quarterback when you’re playing man coverage, which is what we do.”
That of course is easier said than done and Frazier knows it. He’s lucky enough to have played with two of the best pass-rushers the Roughriders have ever had.
“You don’t find John Chicks every day. You don’t see combos like Chick and Stevie Baggs every day. I go back and watch the old game films and I can’t believe the havoc they wreaked on quarterbacks. It was phenomenal and it made our jobs as DBs much easier.”
Frazier also feels the Riders may want to tweak their defensive philosophy this coming season in order to have a little more success in the turnover ratio.
“The reason why you don’t see so many ballhawks in our secondary is because of how much man-coverage we play. If you can’t see the ball in the quarterback’s hand like you do when you play zone, because you’re zeroed in on your guy, it’s kind of hard to get interceptions. There are a few who can actually do that, but a lot of guys really can’t. We played probably 40/60 man to zone and we were successful under Richie Hall and Gary Etcheverry. You gotta see the ball to get your hands on it.”
There you have it. Catching up with one of the all-time Rider greats who’s due for Plaza of Honour induction in 2014. However I get the feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from Lance Frazier before then!