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South's Frye reaching new heights at Georgia Southern
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After a season as an understudy, Garrett Frye became an all-American-caliber offensive lineman at Georgia Southern last season. - photo by Frank Fortune Georgia Southern Athletics

What Garrett Frye found when he went to Georgia Southern in 2011 to play college football was a simplified world of intensity. On his own in Statesboro, his life suddenly boiled down to school and sports, but both were taken to levels of devotion and specificity he’d never imagined.

He found that both venues of his life had fewer tests but required more studying. In class, he dove into the world of kinestheology and pre-exercise science and all that it will take to one day to attend physical therapy school. In football, he was dragged into the film room where he watched tape of Eagles practice, tape of Eagles’ games, tape of Eagles’ opponents, tape of possible Eagles’ opponents or tape of teams who look like Eagles’ opponents.

"It’s a completely different level," Frye said.

Both in school and on the field, Frye is starting to emerge as one of the best in the country. The South Forsyth graduate was named a third-team All-American last season and made the Southern Conference All-Academic team. He was named a pre-season second team All-American this summer going into his junior season and holds a 3.71 GPA, not counting his summer courses.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound tackle has assimilated nicely into both worlds

"It’s great so far," Frye said. "I’ve definitely taken to the college atmosphere. I wouldn’t say it’s easier than high school. It’s the only thing I have to worry about, academics and football. I can really focus on academics and athletics."

Frye was a three-year starter at South. The War Eagles went just 10-21 during his varsity career, though it ended on a high note. South hired Jeff Arnette in 2010, and the War Eagles went 6-5 to reach the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

Frye left for Georgia Southern the next season to a completely different football culture. There he joined the most successful FCS program in the country, one that head coach Jeff Monken had recently restored to national prominence. Frye appeared in five games as a freshman as the Eagles reached the FCS semifinals.

Last season, Frye earned the starting left tackle position and flourished. He started all 14 games. He had 72 knockdowns, the second most on the team. He made the Dean’s List both semesters. The Eagles led the nation in rushing at 399.4 yards per game, and Frye was one of four Georgia Southern players named an all-American.

This was what Frye had been looking for.

"I didn’t think about individual accolades," Frye said. "I mean, of course, I’d want to be an all-conference guy, a big factor on my team, but I was more looking forward to the wins aspect of it. I really wanted a short at the postseason each year, and we’ve definitely gotten that so far.

Just getting to that level of competition … was a big goal for me. Just having all of that so far is a really big accomplishment for our team."

Everything is about to get tougher for Frye. He’s entering the hardest year of his pre-exercise major hoping to finish his college career with a 3.8 GPA before starting physical therapy school. Meanwhile, he won’t get the chance to win a national championship anymore with Georgia Southern transitioning to the FBS after agreeing to join the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The Eagles can still win a conference championship, but they’re ineligible for the postseason.

But Frye has been through change before, and he’s relishing it again.

"I think it’s very exciting," Frye said. "I can’t wait to play at the FBS level. Then again, it’s a little downer for the guys who won’t have that chance, like the seniors who can’t play for an FCS championship, but it’s for the better of the program and it’s going to be very, very exciting. The next couple of years are going to be very exciting for Georgia Southern football."